Six years ago, I’d been in Cambodia for just over 1 month in my 3 year period of fieldwork, and was in the very-near neighborhood when Chea Vichea was murdered. The President of the largest democratic garment workers union, the Free Trade Union Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia (FTUWKC), Vichea was reading the morning newspapers in a newspaper stand (you can pay a small ‘subscription’ fee in many places to read the newspapers there) when a man hopped off the back of a moto, entered the stand, and shot Vichea dead.
Two clearly innocent men were arrested and convicted in a kangaroo court, in an attempt to derail the search for the real killers. These two men, the ‘plastic killers,’ have finally been provisionally released, and will hopefully be fully exonerated soon. But the real killers have not faced justice.
I’ve written about this many times in the past. Others have made a movie about it, which you can watch for free here. But the union is acting in the streets and the factories, and that’s more important than any other possible action.
Chea Mony, the slain leader’s brother and current leader of the union, marked the sixth anniversary of the killing by leading a march of nearly 100 workers and a dozen opposition legislators to the spot where the shooting took place. The march was held under heavy security but was peaceful and no one was arrested.
“Today, I wish to send a message to the government that it is time to arrest the real murderers,” Chea Mony said. “If the government continues to ignore our appeals, then we will hold a one-week, nationwide strike,” he said, adding it would come some time this year. [link, link]