Court drops charges against labour activist

Taing Vida / Khmer Times 1 Comment Share:
Moeun Tola speaks to journalists about the charges. KT/Chor Sokunthea

Phnom Penh Municipal Court has dropped breach of trust charges against Centre for Alliance of Labour and Human Rights executive director Moeun Tola over the mishandling of funds raised for the funeral of assassinated political analyst Kem Ley.

Investigating Judge Y Thavarak said in an order issued on July 9 that he decided to drop all charges.

The judge’s statement said that Mr Tola was not guilty as he was not present at the funeral itself and was not in the country during the time of the alleged crime. Testimony from Mr Ley’s brother also backed Mr Tola’s alibi.

Judge Y Thavarak could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Mr Tola, along with Venerable But Buntenh, an activist monk, and Pa Nguon Teang, founder of Cambodian Centre for Independent Media, were accused by Cambodian Youth Party head Pich Sros of misappropriating the funeral funds. All three have denied the accusations.

Mr Tola, who is a prominent labour activist, said he hoped the charges would also be dropped for the other two accused.

“I am happy that the court decided to drop the charges against me, but at the same time, I hope the judge will also drop the charges against Buntenth and Nguon Teang,” Mr Tola said. “We were only working on the technical aspects of the fundraiser, we didn’t touch the money.”

Venerable But Buntenh alleged that Mr Sros spent $2,300 to hold a fundraising event for Mr Ley, but only managed to raise $750 for Mr Ley’s stupa.

Mr Sros then responded by filing the misappropriation complaint against the three men in a tit-for-tat move, Mr Tola said.

The trio in the past accused the court of creating trumped up charges in retaliation to their criticism of the CPP-led government. However, the Ministry of Labour asked the court to drop charges against Mr Tola in April.

“The government has taken measures, according to procedures, in asking for charges against Mr Moeun Tola, who was charged with breach of trust, to be dropped,” a ministry statement said at the time.

CYP president Pich Sros said yesterday that he would not appeal the judge’s decision to drop Mr Tola’s charges.

“I accept the fact that Mr Tola’s charges were dropped because he was found to be not guilty, and this is social justice,” he said. “I do not want anyone to take advantage of Mr Ley’s funeral.”

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