Cambodian Union Leader Gunned Down


2004.05.07
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PHNOM PENH — ; The leader of a garment workers' labor union with close ties to Cambodia's political opposition has died after two gunmen opened fire on him as he rode his motorcycle through the capital, Phnom Penh, RFA's Khmer service reports.

Ros Sovanareth, 42, a labor activist at a major textile factory, was killed when unidentified gunmen shot him twice as he rode his motorbike near Phnom Penh University.

He was shot while he was driving, and he was pronounced dead at a nearby local hospital, a police officer at the scene told reporters.

Chea Mony, a member of the board of the Free Trade Union Workers of Cambodia, said Ros Sovanareth was an active member of the union, which is closely linked to the opposition Sam Rainsy Party.

On May Day, Ros Sovanareth led a group of workers in honoring the union's late leader Chea Vichea, who was gunned down in January in downtown Phnom Penh.

"So I think his death was politically motivated," said Chea Mony, a younger brother of Chea Vichea who said the shooting was similar to that of his brother.

"The assassination is to kill the union and to kill the freedom of the workers," he said. "If the government cannot find the killers, then the killers will continue to kill the union leaders."

The killing is the latest in a series of incidents of political violence. Last month, unidentified attackers threw a hand grenade and fired shots at a Cambodian opposition party member, Keo Saroeun, in an attack which police said was a case of personal revenge.

In March, opposition leader Sam Rainsy and supporters commemorated victims of a 1997 grenade attack on a party rally that left at least 16 people dead.

"In the name of all the families and on my own behalf, I wish to appeal for a full and permanent stop in taking the lives of others," he told some 300 people. "If it truly does stop, from now on, I will no longer bear a grudge."

On March 17, Rainsy filed a civil lawsuit alleging that Prime Minister Hun Sen masterminded the 1997 grenade attack. Rainsy, a French citizen, filed a similar lawsuit in France.

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