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Supreme Court Again Delays Decision on Unionist Murder

U.N. special rapporteur Surya Subedi walks through a Cambodian national flag upon his arrival in a conference room at the U.N. headquarter in Phnom Penh, in 2010.

The Supreme Court on Wednesday delayed a verdict against a man accused of murdering a labor activist, putting off a decision as the UN’s special envoy for human rights is in Cambodia to assess the courts.

Surya Subedi, the human rights special representative for the UN secretary-general, is on a 10-day mission that began Tuesday. He arrived at the Supreme Court early Wednesday morning, only to witness a decision delayed for the second time.

Judges said they would announce a decision on March 2 in the case against Thach Saveth, who is accused of the 2004 murder of Ros Sovanareth, the head of a factory union.

Rights group say Thach Saveth’s case lacks evidence and that he is likely not the killer. Thach Saveth has said he is innocent and has an alibi.

Chea Mony, president of the Free Trade Union of the Workers in the Kingdom of Cambodia, said Thach Saveth had not received a fair trial and that the postponement of the decision was due to the arrival of Subedi at the court.

No judge announced the reasons for the decision on Wednesday morning. Instead a court clerk appeared to announce to the courtroom that the Supreme Court was “too busy” to present a decision.

Government spokesman Phay Siphan said the delay was not due to Subedi’s visit. The court has its own “priority” in issuing a decision or not, he said.

Huon Phall, the 49-year-old mother of the defendant, told VOA Khmer she believed her son to be innocent and wanted the court to “finish this case.”

Am Sam Ath, head investigator for the rights group Adhoc, said the case echoed that of Born Samnang and Sok Samoeun, two men who were jailed for five years for the murder of Chea Vichea but who were widely considered innocent. They were both released on bail after a Supreme Court decision in 2009 that requires a retrial by the Appeals Court.

Ros Sovannareth, a factory representative for the Free Trade Union, was killed in May 2004, less than three months after the murder of Chea Vichea, the president of the same union.