Human rights workers and activists have welcomed the dismissal of charges against union leader Moeun Tola, who was accused of embezzling money from the funeral fund for slain political analyst and organizer Kem Ley.
Tola, the executive director of the Center for Alliance of Labor and Human Rights (Central), was accused by Pich Sros, the head of the Cambodian Youth Party, of pocketing some $300,000 from the fund.
Am Sam Ath, chief of investigations at local rights group Licadho, said while the decision was welcome the courts should also consider dismissing similar charges filed against two other suspects in the same case.
“I think since the court dropped the charge against Moeun Tola, it should also drop the charges against Venerable Buth Buntenh and Pa Nguon Teang,” he said.
The charges were dropped amid a visit to the Kingdom by European officials who are in Cambodia to determine whether the country should continue to be given preferential trade access to the E.U.
Both the E.U. and the United States have imposed limited sanctions on Cambodia over its human rights record and alleged anti-democratic actions taken by the government of Prime Minister Hun Sen in recent months.
Soeung Senkaruna, a spokesman for Adhoc, another local rights group, said: “The dismissal of this charge against Moeun Tola by the court is a positive sign to pave the way for civil society organizations to continue their professional activities.”
Sros, who filed the charges, said he did not dispute the court’s decision.
“I want to reiterate that I was not taking advantage of this issue for political gain for the Cambodian Youth Party,” he said.
“What I did was in the name of respect and love for Dr. Kem Ley.”
Prior to the dismissal of the charge against Moeun Tola, about 30 local and international civil society groups called on the court to drop the charge against Tola and the other two members of the funeral ceremony commission.
Kem Rithisith, Ley’s younger brother, said the court had come to a just decision, adding that there was no embezzlement from the funeral fund.
“I have clarified all sorts of things, meaning that the family didn't lose money because we didn't see the money that was lost in such an excessive amount,” he said.
“So, the court has offered justice when it dropped the charges,” he added.