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18th of October 2018

Cambodia



Unionist Summoned as Witness in Former Opposition Leader’s Trial

PHNOM PENH — 

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court has summoned a union leader to give evidence in the ongoing case against the leader of Cambodia’s banned main opposition party.

The Cambodia National Rescue Party was dissolved by court order in November after its president, Kem Sokha, was arrested on treason charges.

Vorn Pao, president of the Independent Democracy of Informal Economy Association (IDEA), was issued a summons to appear in court on Monday.

Pao told VOA he would appear in court as requested.

“I think that the court just summoned [me] to be questioned as a witness, but I would like to make it clear that I don't have any involvement [in the alleged crime],” he said.

Pao was among two dozen people who were arrested and beaten by a paratrooper regiment in January 2014, amid protests and worker strikes that led to the deaths of at least five Cambodians at the hands of the security forces.

Pao was one of the union leaders calling for a higher minimum wage for the country’s informal workers at the time.

“As I told you, I worked only on the working conditions for workers in the informal sector and the gasoline price during that time. I have nothing to get involved [with Kem Sokha's case],” he added.

Several other leading civil society representatives were called to give evidence in May, including leading campaigners and rights workers. Sia Phearum, the head of the Housing Rights Task Force, one of those who was called as a witness, has since fled the country to the United States, fearing arrest.

Investigating Judge Ky Rithy could not be reached for comment on Monday.

Sokha has so far been in pretrial detention for one year and has been denied visitation rights outside of immediate family and a small number of former colleagues.

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