Police have detained at least eight NagaWorld union members on the evening of December 31, nearly two weeks after the casino workers’ union initiated a strike against alleged unfair dismissals and violations of the Labor Law.
Hundreds of terminated and active NagaWorld workers have been striking and protesting the termination of more than 1,300 workers, with one of the main demands being the reinstatement of around 300 workers who have refused to accept termination packages from the casino behemoth.
Phnom Penh Police chief Sar Thet confirmed Friday evening that at least eight union members were detained by the authorities, four of whom are being charged with incitement to cause chaos – an oft-used charge to target dissent in the country. The eight unioninsts include Chhim Sokhorn, who is a senior union leader.
Thet and labor group Central confirmed that union president Chhim Sithar was not one of the arrested unionists, despite her expressing concerns over imminent arrests.
“The ministry has opened negotiations for a solution, and authorities had called on them not to hold an illegal demonstration but they have not listened,” Thet said, adding that they routinely protested on public streets.
Sithar, the union’s president, said that the eight were arrested from the union’s office in Chamkarmon district.
“They surrounded [the office] quietly and arrested them at the union office. The [members] might not know because when it gets dark it gets more dangerous,” Sithar said.
“I am the one that they are mainly searching for. This is a threat to the right to expression, especially when they are leaders representing in the negotiations with NagaWorld.”
She said despite more than 10 days since negotiations began, there was no solution for the workers, but now authorities were arresting union members.
Negotiations among the Labor Ministry, NagaWorld representatives and the union have been at a standstill after the casino said last week its board would consider reinstating the laid-off staffers, according to a unionist.
Naly Pilorge, Licadho’s director, said there was no need to arrest the unionists and the casino company should work to resolve the dispute with workers.
“The authorities should release all detained union activists, who have done nothing wrong and have only peacefully advocated for their colleagues’ labor rights,” Pilorge said. “NagaWorld must work with the union to resolve the workers’ demands and comply with the Labor Law.”
Additional reporting by Ananth Baliga