News / Asia

Cambodia: Bail Denied for Activists Arrested During Labor Protest

Protesters gather outside the Appeal Court in Phnom Penh, Feb. 11, 2014. (Robert Carmichael/VOA)
Protesters gather outside the Appeal Court in Phnom Penh, Feb. 11, 2014. (Robert Carmichael/VOA)
Robert Carmichael
Cambodia’s Appeals Court on Tuesday rejected a request for bail by 21 people who have been held in custody for more than a month. The defendants were arrested following last month’s garment sector protests in which security forces shot dead at least four people and injured dozens more. Rights groups have condemned the ruling.
 
The defendants are charged with intentional violence and destruction of property.

Their plight prompted protests in recent weeks at some Cambodian embassies overseas. International rights groups and unions have also expressed support for those arrested.
 
None of the 21 defendants was brought to court by the authorities for the hearing. Judges barred the media and monitors from entering the courtroom.
 
In rejecting their application for bail, the Appeals Court told defense lawyers that their clients would not be released because they were deemed a flight risk, or alternatively, that freeing them could jeopardize public order.
 
Speaking outside the court after the ruling, defense lawyer Sam Sokung condemned the decision, which he said breached not only Cambodian law but also the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, known as the ICCPR.
 
“As the lawyers we feel so sad when I hear the judge decide like this because it is [an] injustice to my clients," he told reporters. " It is not good because the decision violates the law - the Article 203 and 205 - and the ICCPR also.”
 
Human rights

In recent months Cambodia’s rights record has worsened considerably following July’s general election, which the authoritarian ruling party won by a surprisingly narrow margin. A general ban on public gatherings remains in effect.

At the U.N. Human Rights Council's meeting in Geneva late last month, a Cambodian official responded to numerous criticisms of the rights situation by insisting that the measures the government had taken were necessary to maintain stability and to prevent damage to property.
 
The garment sector protests have taken on a distinctly political tinge: many workers support the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, which ahead of last year’s ballot pledged to increase the minimum wage to $150. The opposition has strongly supported the workers’ demands.
 
On Tuesday, rights groups condemned the court’s decision as a farce.
 
In a statement, Ou Virak, who heads the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, said the appellate ruling came despite serious concerns about the health of some of the 21 defendants.
 
Ou Virak said the decision to deny bail showed the entire episode was nothing less than an effort by the government to silence its critics using a pliant judiciary. He decried the ruling as an attack on freedom of assembly and freedom of expression.

Garment industry

Cambodia’s garment industry is the country’s key foreign exchange earner - worth more than $5 billion last year, mostly in exports to the United States and the European Union. The sector is also the country’s biggest formal employer, with 400,000 workers, who make clothes for some of the West’s biggest brands.
 
But wages have not kept pace with inflation, and the number of days lost to strikes has increased as a result. Last year, around one million days were lost - the worst in the sector’s two-decade history.
 
In December, the government ordered the minimum wage increased to $95; many garment workers had expected a rise to $160. They have rejected December’s increase as insufficient.
 
Military police shot dead at least four people during violence in January. Dozens of other people were injured.
 
The authorities have refused to investigate whether the security forces acted unlawfully during the country’s worst clashes involving police in years. Instead, authorities have gone after protesters and rights activists.
 
Appeal

Defense lawyer Sam Sokung said he went to the court clerk immediately after the ruling to file an appeal to the Supreme Court.
 
“But the clerk said we must write the appeal letter to the clerk this afternoon. And [so] I will come again to meet the clerk and appeal to the Supreme Court,” he explained.
 
Prior to the hearing, some of the estimated 200 people gathered outside the court were confident that a number of those imprisoned would be freed. Their optimism was buoyed after another judge on Friday ordered that two of the original 23 defendants be set free.
 
In response to Tuesday’s ruling, eight garment sector unions said they will decide Wednesday how best to respond. Late last week those same unions threatened a nationwide strike unless all of the defendants were released.

You May Like

US Border Patrol Union Accused of Taking Sides on Immigration

Report alleges agents leaking info to immigration opponents, appearing at their private events; Center for Immigration Studies director defends agents' actions More

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Reporting from Somali capital for past decade, Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal has been working at one of Mogadishu's leading radio stations covering parliament More

Video Rights Monitor: Hate Groups' Use of Internet to Inflame, Recruit Growing

Wiesenthal Center's Abraham Cooper says extremists have become skilled at celebrating violence, ideology on Web More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Interneti
X
Mike O'Sullivan
June 30, 2015 8:20 PM
Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Syrians Flee IS Advance in Hasaka

The Syrian government said Monday it has taken back one of several districts in Hasaka overrun by Islamic State militants. But continued fighting elsewhere in the northern city has forced thousands of civilians from their homes. In this report narrated by Bill Rodgers, VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer describes the scene in Amouda, where some of the displaced are taking refuge.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video S. Korea Christians Protest Gay Rights Festival

The U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating marriage equality nationwide has energized gay rights supporters around the world. Gay rights remain a highly contentious issue in a key U.S. ally, South Korea, where police did a deft job Sunday of preventing potential clashes between Christian protesters and gay activists. Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.
Video

Video In Syrian Crisis, Social Media Offer Small Comforts

Za’atari, a makeshift city in Jordan, may be the only Syrian refugee camp to tweet its activities, in an effort to keep donors motivated as the war in Syria intensifies and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Inside the camp, families say mobile phone applications help hold together families that are physically torn apart. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.

VOA Blogs