Chea Vichea: No Justice Six Years Later

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]

Photos at KI-Media, Khmerization, and Daem Ampil.

Academic Workers! Don’t Mourn, Organize!

AAUP (American Association of University Professors, the largest professorial union in the USA) has a new issue of their magazine, Academe, out.  It is focused on Graduate Students and Graduate Student Labor.

Cary Nelson (president of the AAUP) has an excellent essay in there titled, “Don’t Mourn, Organize.”  More wobbly-inspired work within this magazine includes Joe Grim Feinberg’s essay on reviving old labor songs to create a new public sphere (Joe’s in the Graduate Students United at the University of Chicago, a union I had to withdraw from, with some unhappiness, once I was no longer a graduate student).

Nelson writes:

“The only thing the PhD now reliably confers is the potential for lifetime poverty and underemployment.”

I’m one of the very lucky ones.  I have  job right now.

Sounding on Haiti 1/18/2010

  • And still more about aid for Haiti. Bhikkhu Bodhi has a few words, in an interview with Rev. Danny Fisher. [link] Also, if you are, like me, concerned with labor rights and thinking ahead to resisting the inevitable, constant, recurring attempts of foreign businesses to turn this human tragedy into yet another business opportunity, please read this appeal, and consider giving your aid monies to the rank-and-file union Batay Ouvriye.

BATAY OUVRIYE is an organization that regroups factory unions and committees, workers’ associations and militants, all struggling in Haiti for the construction of an independent, combative and democratic union movement, and to organize wage-workers, self-employed workers as well as the unemployed for the defense of their rights. Theorganization is an alternative to the traditional bureaucratic, corrupt union movement that upholds the dominant classes’ power amongst the exploited masses of Haiti. Not only does it take the initiative of developing spontaneous direct issue struggles, but also it incites the working class to fight and to organize themselves to defend their independent interests. Batay Ouvriye also links these particular struggles with those, more wide-ranging, of the people. In this sense, it takes part in all types of popular democratic struggles by encouraging the involvement of workers.
[text from Miami Autonomy & Solidarity]

Southeast Asia Sounding: 1/18/2010