City Hall to Sue NagaWorld Protesters for Property Damage, Insult

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A Phnom Penh district guard tries to pull part of a barricade away from a NagaWorld worker during the strike on August 11, 2022. (Hean Rangsey/VOD)

Phnom Penh City Hall said it will file a court complaint against protesting NagaWorld workers for allegedly damaging metal police barricades during a violent clash on Thursday, with workers hitting back that the police were the aggressors.

City Hall released a statement late Thursday night saying it was collecting evidence against NagaWorld workers, who were stopped at the intersection of Sothearos and Sihanouk boulevards, for damaging 20 barricades. The evidence would be sent to court, the statement added. 

“The authorities will file a complaint to the court and convict the perpetrators for all the public damage and violence against the authorities as well as insulting an official,” reads the statement. 

City Hall added that the small protests by the group were illegal and affected public security and were using social media posts to malign the authorities.

Keut Chhe, a Phnom Penh deputy governor, did not tell VOD when the city would file the complaint or any other details in the lawsuit. He asked reporters to refer to the statement.

Phnom Penh deputy governor Met Measpheakdey could not be reached for comment on Friday. 

Around 100 NagaWorld workers walked up Sothearos Boulevard on Thursday to resume their protests outside the NagaWorld casino, which fired more than 1,300 workers last year, triggering protests in December.

Workers at one point tried to remove the barricades to proceed to the casino only to be blocked by dozens of security personnel. A violent scuffle ensued resulting in injured workers, one of who had a bloody nose.

Rights groups Licadho said the worker was punched in the face, left briefly unconscious and had a gash on her nose. The NGO said police were “violently hitting, kicking, stomping on and shoving back” protestors on Thursday.

A NagaWorld worker with a bleeding nose after the protest turned violent on August 11, 2022. (Hean Rangsey/VO)
A NagaWorld worker with a bleeding nose after the protest turned violent on August 11, 2022. (Hean Rangsey/VO)

Protests have gotten violent over the past few months, starting with a late-night crackdown on strikers on New Year’s Eve. Both protesters and police have accused each other of being instigators of the violence.

Chhim Sithar, the president of the Labor Rights Supported Union at NagaWorld, said it was not surprising because the authorities had already filed complaints against union leaders and members earlier this year.

“I am very regretful for the government. And Phnom Penh City Hall always sends the authorities without proper uniforms to use violence against the strikers, but then turns to file a complaint against the victim,” she said. 

Sithar and seven union colleagues were arrested earlier this year on incitement charges and three others were charged with violating the Covid-19 law. All are out on bail.

NagaWorld workers returned to their protest on Friday and were stopped again by police at the same place. Workers again tried to move the barricades but were stopped by police, this time without a violent clash.

Chan Bora, one of the workers, said the people and media knew the truth and could decide for themselves who was violent. 

“People can distinguish what is black and what is white,” Bora said. “They protect NagaWorld and file a complaint against us.”

The protests ended peacefully on Friday, with workers leaving around 5:30 p.m.

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