Suspects Freed; No Hope of Justice for Slain Union Leader

Sok Sam Oeun and Born Samnang left Prey Sar prison’s Correctional Center 1 on Thursday for the last time, putting behind them an ordeal that has lasted nearly a decade during which they were wrongfully imprisoned for a total of five years each for the murder of popular Free Trade Union (FTU) leader Chea Vichea. … Supreme Court presiding Judge Khim Pon on Tuesday informed the court the pair did not qualify for financial reparations despite the many years wrongly spent behind bars. Am Sam Ath, technical supervisor for rights group Licadho, said that he regretted the court’s refusal to provide compensation. Nevertheless, Queen Mother Norodom Monineath pledged $500 Thursday to each of the men to help them start putting their lives back together. “I thank the Queen Mother for giving $500 to me, and I thank Licadho for giving me $100, 20 kg of milled rice and other provisions while we were in prison,” Mr. Samnang said. … The case against Mr. Samnang, 33, and Mr. Sam Oeun, 45, snaked through Cambodia’s judicial system for nearly a decade, following their arrests days after the killing. … Sam Pracheameanith, Justice Minister Ang Vong Vattana’s cabinet chief, declined to comment, as did judicial officials at the supreme and municipal courts on whether or not there would be a fresh investigation into Chea Vichea’s murder. … Chea Vichea’s murder adds to the country’s long and bloody list of those killed with impunity since 1993, including singers, actresses, politicians, journalists, many in cases believed to have been politically motivated and to have had the collusion of government forces, including the 1997 grenade attack that killed about a dozen people and injured more than 100 in front of the former parliament building in Phnom Penh. Like Chea Vichea, no one has ever been held to account for these crimes.

Khy Sovuthy and Lauren Crothers