02 August 2005

Labor leader Chea Vichea's "killers" sentenced

Longtime readers might remember that I mentioned Cambodian labor leader Chea Vichea in a previous post. Today, two men, Sok Sam Oeun and Born Samnang were sentenced to 20 years' imprisonment for his killing. The judge based this on witness statements, but none of those witnesses appeared in court for cross-examination.

The accused continued to protest their innocence, and one of them reminded the judge of the judiciary's supposed independence before the verdict was handed down. Both men had alibis attested to by many people. But one of them confessed after spending a night in jail, then recanted, saying that he had been beaten and threatened by police into making the confession.

Chea Vichea had been a prominent opponent of the government, and his funeral was the largest mass gathering I have ever seen in Phnom Penh. Every Cambodian I have talked to about this case believes that he was assassinated by the government, and that Sok Sam Oeun and Born Samnang are innocent. The judiciary is wholly beholden to the government, and unquestioningly carries out its wishes.

It is this government that $600 million a year from the international aid community has failed to reform. It is this government that today has made Cambodia scream.

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