Phnom Penh Municipal Court will on Friday begin the trial of six union leaders charged over their roles in deadly protests following the 2013 election.
In a statement dated November 19 and obtained by Khmer Times yesterday, the court said the union leaders were charged with intent to commit violence, intent to cause damage, threats to cause damage and obstructing traffic for their roles in massive protests in late December 2013 and early 2014 in which garment workers were demanding a higher minimum wage.
The protests, which dovetailed with demonstrations led by opposition supporters who did not accept the election results, culminated in a fatal crackdown by authorities in January 2014, when dozens of protesters were injured and at least five killed when authorities opened fire along Veng Sreng Boulevard.
In the statement, court spokesman Ly Sophanna called on Choung Chou Ngy, a lawyer representing the union leaders, to appear at court on Friday morning.
Mr Chou Ngy yesterday said he has prepared documents and evidence to defend his clients.
“I will appear in court on time and provide defence for my clients,” he said.
The six union leaders include Chea Mony, former president of the Free Trade Union; Ath Thorn, president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Union; Yang Sophorn, president of the Cambodian Alliance of Trade Unions; Pav Sina, president of the Collective Union of Movement of Work; former unionist Rong Chhun; and Mom Nhim, president of the National Independent Federation Textile Union of Cambodia.
Besides the charges stemming from the protests, the leaders are also facing many other outstanding allegations, prompting Prime Minister Hun Sen to urge court officials to speed up the cases in order to free the leaders of restrictive working conditions.
“I appeal to all union leaders involved with court cases, please forward those cases to the Labour Ministry so that the minister can work with the justice minister and courts to resolve it as quick as possible,” Mr Hun Sen said last week.
The union leaders were required to fill a form attached to a detailed report of their cases in order to gain assistance from the Labour Ministry.
In the form, the leaders must acknowledge that labour and union conditions are improving under the leadership of Mr Hun Sen and must also admit that they were wrong and their activities infringed on the rights of others.
Ms Sophorn yesterday said she and members of her union submitted five reports to the Labour Ministry, adding that she is ready for the hearing on Friday.
“I will present evidence in court to defend myself and my union members,” Ms Sophorn said. “We defend human and labour rights. The charges against us should be dropped.”
Mr Sina yesterday said he will submit 13 reports for him and on behalf of his union members to the Labour Ministry today.
“In most of the cases, we were sued by factory owners and government officials because of the strikes over minimum wages and working conditions,” he said.
Labour Ministry spokesman Heng Sour yesterday said a working group is working on the reports being submitted by the union leaders.
“I will check on Monday to see how many reports we have received so far,” Mr Sour said.
Justice Ministry spokesman Chin Malin yesterday said a couple of the reports have already been relayed to the court in order to speed up the process.
“The court is now speeding up the cases,” Mr Malin said. “All courts across the nation are working on this issue.”