HRN calls on the Cambodian government to end the politically motivated persecution of Moeun Tola

Human Rights Now signed a joint statement with 34 other organizations to call on the Cambodian government to end politically motivated persecution of human rights defender Moeun Tola.

The entire statement can be read below or downloaded here: Joint statement To Cambodian Gvt re Tola Moeun FINAL key signatories

We, the undersigned global unions and international human rights and workers’ rights
organizations, call for the charges against Cambodian human rights defender Moeun Tola to
be immediately dropped.

As reported on January 18, 2018, in the Phnom Penh Post, prosecutors in Cambodia have
sought criminal charges and an order for pre-trial detention against Tola and two other
prominent civil society leaders, Pa Nguon Teang, an advocate for press freedom, and
Venerable But Buntenh, an activist monk. Tola is the Executive Director of the Center for the
Alliance of Labor and Human Rights (CENTRAL), and is a renowned supporter of labor
rights in Cambodia.

On January 18, the Phnom Penh Court deputy prosecutor issued a preliminary charge for
“breach of trust” against the three men, who were all members of the funeral committee for
murdered activist Kem Ley. The deputy prosecutor also recommended that they be placed in
pre-trial detention. None of the men were in the country at the time of the announcement; they
risk imprisonment for an indefinite period if they return. If convicted, they face imprisonment
for up to three years.

It is well known that Cambodia’s courts are not independent, but rather are driven by the
political interests of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party. These charges constitute an attempt
to silence and punish one of the country’s leading independent voices for worker rights. As
detailed in the Phnom Penh Post, the pretext for the changes is a criminal complaint filed
against Tola by Pich Sros, the leader of the obscure Cambodia Youth Party. Last year, Pich
Sros filed the first complaint against the country’s main opposition party, the Cambodia
National Rescue Party, and its leader Kem Sokha, which led to Sokha’s jailing and the party’s
dissolution by the courts.

The charges issued against Tola concern an unsubstantiated claim that he and the two other
activists misappropriated funds raised for the funeral of Kem Ley, a well-known government
critic who was assassinated in July 2016. Human Rights Watch has termed the
charges “politically motivated legal harassment” and an example of the government targeting
civil society activists. Moreover, multiple members of Kem Ley’s own family have repeatedly
stated that there is no basis for the allegations, and that Tola and the other two accused leaders
never handled any of the funeral funds. Further, the complainant politician, Pich Sros, neither
took part in the funeral nor has any connections to Kem Ley’s family.

This case is emblematic of broader deterioration in the labor rights and human rights climate
in Cambodia, where the government has closed down a number of independent media outlets,
shut down the National Democratic Institute (NDI), dissolved the Cambodia National Rescue
Party and arrested its leader on “treason” charges, and engaged in politically motivated
prosecutions against a number of human rights defenders and unionists.

We, the undersigned organizations, are strongly calling upon the Cambodian
government to respect fundamental human rights and to immediately drop the charges
against Tola and his two co-defendants.

We stand in solidarity with 35 Cambodian human rights organizations expressing similar
concerns and call for action.


Building and Wood Worker’s International
International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied
Workers’ Associations
Public Services International
International Domestic Workers Federation
Human Rights Watch
Asia Floor Wage Alliance
Clean Clothes Campaign
Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility
International Labor Rights Forum
United Students Against Sweatshops
Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity
Maquila Solidarity Network
National Guestworker Alliance
Globalization Monitor
Asian Transnational Corporations Monitoring Network
National Economic and Social Rights Initiative
Human Rights Now
Jobs With Justice
Coalition of Immokalee Workers
People & Planet
China Labour Bulletin
Labour Education and Service Network
Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour
Korean House for International Solidarity
Labour Action China
Bangladesh Nari Progati Sangh
Sedane Labour Resource Centre (LIPS)
Tenaganita Womens’ Force
Action Labour Rights
Labour Education Foundation
MAP Foundation
Trade Union Rights Centre Indonesia
Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research
The Cambodian Australian Federation
T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights