The Court of Appeal on Monday again denied bail to Vorn Pao, the leader of the main union for the country’s large informal sector. He was beaten and arrested by soldiers at a protest on January 2.
Mr. Pao, who is president of the Independent Democracy of Informal Economic Association, was among 10 activists arrested by Royal Cambodian Armed Forces paratroopers during the suppression of a nationwide strike of garment workers that had dovetailed with opposition protests.
Protesters hold up a banner emblazoned with an image of union leader Vorn Pao outside the Appeal Court on Monday. (Siv Channa)

Kim Socheat, one of Mr. Pao’s two lawyers, said the Court of Appeal denied his client bail for procedural reasons.
“The Court of Appeal has decided to deny Vorn Pao bail because [presiding Judge Seng Sivutha] said the Phnom Penh Municipal Court investigating judge has sent this case to be heard, and if bail is allowed it could affect the court’s procedures,” Mr. Socheat said, referring to preparations to try Mr. Pao.
Mr. Pao is being held in the Correctional Center 3 (CC3) prison near the Vietnamese border in Kompong Cham province, a jail usually reserved for those convicted of serious crimes and facing more than 10 years.
The union leader, as well as 20 others arrested during strikes on January 2 and 3, can legally be held in provisional detention for up to 18 months without conviction, according to local rights group Licadho. Mr. Pao was one of 23 people arrested during the strikes. In the crackdown, military police also killed five protesters.
Judge Sivutha said during the hearing that municipal court judges on March 17 started to prepare paperwork for Mr. Pao to face trial in the near future, according to Mr. Socheat.
Mr. Pao has been charged with two violations—intentional violence and* intentional destruction of property—for his role in the nationwide strike. He was not allowed to attend Monday’s bail hearing.
Kea Sovanna, the director of the CC3 prison, said that he was unable to transport Mr. Pao to his hearing due to problems with a prison van.
“The vehicle is broken, and I am [working hard] to fix it,” he said.
Prak Sovannary, Mr. Pao’s wife, said after the hearing that she had instructed her lawyers to appeal to the Supreme Court.
narim@cambodiadaily.com
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