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No Chea Vichea Film in May Day Protest

A May Day demonstration ended Saturday evening in a snarl of traffic and curious onlookers, as government authorities banned a film about slain unionist Chea Vichea from being shown.

Organizers had hoped to show the US film, “Who Killed Chea Vichea?,” which explores the 2004 murder and its subsequent investigation, but authorities said in the days leading to the demonstration they would not allow it.

Instead, protesters held up a small white screen attached to poles at the corner of Sihanouk Boulevard and Street 57, near the news kiosk outside Wat Langka pagoda where Chea Vichea was shot on the morning of Jan. 22, 2004.

Police allowed the screen to go up, briefly, before seizing it, as traffic clogged the intersection and curious bystanders watched.

Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Confederation of Unions, which organized the demonstration, said the banning of the film implicated the authorities in the murder. He had wanted to show the film in public to question the motive behind the killing and potential government involvement, he said.

Government officials have said they will not investigate the murder further until two suspects, Born Samnang and Sok Samoeun, are officially cleared by the courts.

Both men, who spent five years in prison on murder charges, are on provisional release, pending further hearings, following a Supreme Court decision last year. They are widely considered innocent.

Chor Kimchhorn, deputy governor of Chamkarmon district, said the screening was unlawful and had created a traffic problem. City officials had earlier said the film was unlicensed in the country and could not be shown in public.

The film, directed by American Bradley Cox, is currently touring festivals and is scheduled for wider release in the US later this year.

Am Sam Ath, a rights investigator for Licadho, said the banning of the film in Cambodia demonstrated poor freedom of expression.

The government should allow the film, he said, to show who the real killers of Chea Vichea were.

The small film demonstration followed a larger march on Saturday, where hundreds of workers and teachers demanded better salaries and working conditions.