Cambodian union leader, Rong Chhun, was arrested in July 2020 for meeting with farmers fighting for their land rights. He has been held in detention ever since. Rong Chhun’s trial commenced on 15 January 2021. Here is what you need to know about Rong Chhun’s situation.
Background: Rong Chhun’s arrest
Rong Chhun is the president of the Cambodian Confederation of Unions (CCU) and a prominent union activist. In July 2020, he was arrested for raising concerns about farmers along the Cambodian border losing land to Vietnam.
Many civil society organisations have condemned Rong Chhun’s arrest and are demanding that he be released and that the charges are dropped.
“The arrest of Rong Chhun, and the detention of more than 20 other rights activists in Cambodia, is a blatant case of repression of freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association. “ Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary
“We urge your government to immediately release and drop all charges against Rong Chhun and the other trade unionists detained for exercising their right to free expression. We call on your government to immediately fulfil its obligations to uphold the principles in ILO Convention 87 concerning Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise and international human rights treaties, and immediately implement the recommendations of the UN Special Rapporteur. The ACTU will continue to stand in solidarity with Cambodian unionists and will closely monitor the human rights situation in Cambodia.” Michele O’Neil, President Australian Council of Trade Unions in letter to Prime Minister Hun Sen
Rong Chhun’s Trial
After six long months in detention, Rong Chhun was questioned in court on Friday 15 January 2021, only to be returned to detention without an outcome. Hearings will continue in February and Rong Chhun remains in pre-trial detention. During the court hearing, relatives, members of civil society organisations and the media were prevented from gathering near the court compound.
Speaking to the media, Rong Chhun’s nephew, Rong Vichea, had a message to convey. He told Radio Free Asia (RFA) that Rong Chhun’s message to the public was to ‘not be dispirited by mounting persecution and prosecutions by the authorities against voices of dissent’. He went on to add:
“My uncle remains courageous, resolute and strong. He maintains his position that he did nothing illegal, as charged by the court,” Rong Vichea, Rong Chuun’s nephew.
Concern grows as Rong Chhun’s health deteriorates
Serious concern is growing for Rong Chhun’s health due to the unhygienic conditions and lack of COVID-19 precautions in overcrowded prison cells during the long pre-trial custody.
Six United Nations special rapporteurs and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights have raised serious concerns about Rong Chhun’s detention and 5876 people used an ITUC Labour Start Campaign to demand his release and call for greater respect for human and labour rights.
The Global Justice Organisation of the Australian Union Movement
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