CAMBODIAN POLICE ARREST TWO FOR KILLING PROMINENT LABOR LEADER


2004-01-29
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Cambodian police have arrested two men in connection with the shooting death of prominent labor leader Chea Vichea, RFA's Khmer service reports. One of them, Born Samnang, 23, has confessed to the murder.

"The two suspects have been arrested in connection with Chea Vichea�s murder and will be officially charged tomorrow [Friday]," Phnom Penh police chief Heng Peou told RFA�s Khmer service. "Born Samnang has confessed to being the killer."

"We now have a videotaped confession from Born Samnang," Heng Peou said, contradicting reports that the two men had denied the charges against them.

Heng Peou added that police seized a loaded pistol, K-54 bullets, handcuffs, and four holsters. �We sent the weapons for forensic testing and the results were positive," he said. Police arrested Born Samnang, 23, in eastern Prey Veng Province, and Sok Sam Oeun, 28, in Phnom Penh.

Authorities say the two men�both amphetamine addicts, according to police�were promised U.S.$5,000 for killing Chea Vichea. Heng Peou said police are still looking for the man who hired the two men but declined to say who was under suspicion.

"We are working on it and we cannot tell you who he is,� he said, adding that police cannot yet determine whether the murder was related to politics or business. �After we arrest the man responsible for ordering the murder, we will know the motive of the killing.�

On Jan. 22, two gunmen approached Chea Vichea as he stood at a busy newspaper kiosk in Phnom Penh and shot him in the chest and head before speeding away on a motorcycle. Chea Vichea died instantly.

On Wednesday, 36-year-old Va Sothy , the owner of the newspaper kiosk where Chea Vichea was shot, told RFA she fears for her life and has asked human rights groups and United Nations (UN) staff for protection. She said three men who identified themselves as U.N. staff came to her kiosk to look for her and wanted her to go with them for her protection.

�I believe that they are not staff from the United Nations. How can they send people to look for me because I was in the UN office at that time, on that day?� Va Sothy said. �I don't feel that I am safe right now... I don�t want to die�please help protect me.�

Va Sothy denied reports that she had seen the face of the gunman who killed Chea Vichea.

Chea Vichea founded the Free Trade Union of Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia in 1996 with opposition party leader Sam Rainsy�whom Chea Vichea supported politically. A Soviet-trained agricultural engineer, Chea Vichea led the union through multiple labor protests that often clashed with police.

Chea Vichea�s death drew worldwide condemnation, with international groups putting pressure on police to find the murderers. Meanwhile, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has pledged to bring the perpetrators to justice.###

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