Three of six union leaders found guilty of instigating violence during massive protests for higher garment worker wages in 2013 and 2014 have begun to file appeals.
The three union leaders were encouraged by Prime Minister Hun Sen last week to file appeals after he proclaimed their innocence in the wake of Phnom Penh Municipal Court finding all six leaders guilty earlier this month.
The court handed down 18-month suspended sentences to union leaders Chea Mony, Mom Nhim, Ath Thorn, Yang Sophorn, and Pav Sina, and former unionist Rong Chhun, over their roles in the protests along Veng Sreng Boulevard, which turned violent and led to authorities opening fire on demonstrators, leaving at least five dead.
Mr Hun Sen noted that Mr Thorn, Mr Sina and Mr Money were not involved in the protests after the verdict.
In appeal letters for Mr Sina, Mr Thorn and Mr Sophorn obtained by Khmer Times yesterday, they said that the charges were unjust and were meant to put pressure on them.
“I cannot accept the decision as I did not commit any of the aforementioned offences. This is injustice to me,” Mr Sina said. “I hope the Appeal Court will overturn the Phnom Penh Court’s verdict.”
Mr Thorn said the court should acquit all six union leaders, noting that some union leaders are facing dozens of pending cases.
“I think the court should change the verdict, and drop all other charges,” he said. “We did nothing wrong – we only protected labour rights for garment workers.”
Ms Sophorn said she cannot afford a fine ordered by the court.
“I cannot accept the decision and I have no money to pay for the compensation,” she said. “I must appeal in order to clear my name and proclaim my innocence.”
Mr Mony and Ms Nhim could not be reached for comment yesterday. Mr Chhun yesterday said he was still discussing the appeal with his lawyer.
“I am not satisfied with the court’s decision,” he said. “I am now talking with my lawyer so we can find ways to win other court cases as well.”
IndustriALL Global Union on Tuesday issued a statement demanding the verdicts be overturned.
Valter Sanches, secretary-general of the global union, said the government must intervene.
“The courts are being used to crush independent unions [which] is a direct violation of fundamental international labour conventions that Cambodia has ratified,” Mr Sanches said.