Prime Minister Hun Sen has issued a warning of legal action against a local rights activist named Vorn Pov, for helping organize a mourning ceremony for five factory workers killed in a brutal government crackdown in 2014.
The ceremony was disbanded by authorities on Sunday. Vorn Pov, the leader of the organization IDEA, was among 23 people arrested in the January 2014 crackdown. They were accused of inciting violence, destruction of public property and of creating insecurity and social disorder. They were detained until May 2014.
Speaking at the inauguration of a highway overpass on the outskirts of Phnom Penh on Tuesday, Hun Sen said Vorn Pov was “destined to be in jail.” “You haven’t been cleared of all charges,” Hun Sen said. “Don’t forget.”
Vorn Pov told VOA Khmer the warning from Hun Sen concerns him, but he will continue his activism. “To me, I think what I’m doing is right,” he said. “I will continue doing it. All that I’ve done has been in line with legal principles and human rights. I’ll continue to do whatever is not illegal.”
Moeun Tola, executive director of the newly formed Center for Alliance of Labor and Human Rights, known as Central, said Sunday’s mourning ceremony should not have been seen by government authorities as criticism. However, in preventing it from being held, the government lost some political points, he said.
During the 2014 demonstrations, Vorn Pov had acted as a rights observer, Moeun Tola said. “His voice was clearly asking workers as well as authorities or soldiers not to use any violence,” Moeun Tola said. “So I think the head of the government should consider this point. What the head of the government announced was not beneficial to his political agenda.”