Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday defended three of six unions leaders found guilty of instigating violence over their roles in violent protests dating back to 2013, noting that they were not involved in the violent demonstrations.
Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Tuesday handed down two years and six months in jail to six union leaders, but the sentences were suspended.
Union leaders Chea Mony, Mom Nhim, Ath Thorn, Yang Sophorn, and Pav Sina, and former unionist Rong Chhun were initially charged with intent to commit violence, intent to damage, threats to commit damage and obstruction of traffic.
Speaking to thousands of garment workers in Kampong Speu province’s Samrong Tong district, Mr Hun Sen said that Mr Thorn, Mr Sina and Mr Mony were not involved in the 2013 protests which turned violent along Phnom Pemh’s Veng Sreng Boulevard.
“I can guarantee that three people were not involved in [protests at Veng Sreng street]. They are Ath Thorn, Pav Sina and Chea Mony because I have evidence to prove that the three men were not involved,” Mr Hun Sen said.
Mr Hun Sen urged all six union leaders to appeal and said that he would ask Cambodia Human Rights Committee chairman Keo Remy and prominent media personality Soy Sopheap to testify that Mr Thorn, Mr Sina and Mr Mony were not implicated in the violent protests.
“I would like to send a message to unions or legal experts that I do not have the right to order the court, but I have requested it to the Justice Minister to work on those cases,” he said.
“I ask the cases to be sped up. I do not mean that I ask the court to drop charges,” Mr Hun Sen said. “I do not have the right to have their charges dropped.”
The 2013 protests turned violent and led to authorities opening fire on demonstrators in early 2014 as the demonstrations continued for higher minimum wages for garment workers and in protest against the 2013 election results. At least five protesters died.
Mr Hun Sen said those who instigated violent protests along Veng Sreng street had to be held responsible for being prosecuted because state and private properties were damaged.
“At Veng Sreng street, those involved must be prosecuted because it was a part of overthrowing the government in an attempt to unseat the party,” he said. “The issue of toppling the government could not be tolerated.”
Mr Remy said that he was ready to alibi Mr Mony when the case is appealed.
“I am ready if the court needs me to testify,” he said.
Mr Remy said that he called Mr Mony after midnight and asked him not to join the protest as authorities would disperse the demonstrators.
“I phoned Mr Mony around 12.45am at night, telling him not to join the protest because armed forces had to maintain security and public order,” he said. “I am a witness to prove that he did not participate in the protest,” Mr Remy said.
Mr Sina said that he will discuss the matter with his lawyer today to appeal.
He said when the protests at Veng Sreng street turned violent, he was somewhere else.
“As I have said, I was not at that protest. So I will appeal to reject Phnom Penh Municipal Court’s decision,” Mr Sina said.