January 3, 2018

Activist wants charges dropped

Human rights defender Theng Savouen, from the Coalition of Cambodian Farmers Community, has appealed to the courts to drop the charges against him and 22 other union members involved in the 2014 Veng Sreng street protests in which at least four people were killed.

The January 2014 protests, outside Yakjin factory in Phnom Penh, demanded better pay for garment workers. Military police also arrested 23.

Those arrested were given lengthy prison terms, but freed after six months to serve out their sentences on a suspended basis. Many are now stuck in judicial limbo – free to walk the streets, but with lengthy sentences hanging over their heads.

Speaking at the four-year anniversary of the incident yesterday, Mr Savuen asked the courts to finally give them justice.

“It’s an injustice for us. I did nothing wrong but I live with the name of a prisoner. I would like to appeal to have our charges dropped. I will never forget what happened to me on January 2,” he said.

In addition to Mr Savouen, military police arrested workers, monks and Vorn Pov, president of the Independent Democracy of Informal Economic Association, who also appealed to the courts to drop the charges.

“I would like to ask the court to please withdraw the complaint against all of us. We did nothing wrong,” Mr Pov said.

Justice Ministry spokesman Chin Malin could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Am Sam Ath, a senior investigator for rights group Licadho, said it was their right to demand the court to drop the charges because they had just gone to monitor a worker protest demanding a higher minimum wage.

“If this case had not involved politics, there would not have been such a harsh crackdown,” he said.

The government has since labelled the protests as an attempted colour revolution led by the opposition CNRP, which was dissolved by the Supreme Court in November in the wake of its leader Kem Sokha being jailed on treason charges.

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