Court Summons NagaWorld Unionists to Testify About Labor Dispute

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NagaWorld union workers stand outside the Phnom Penh Municipal Court in support of their colleagues who asked for a delay to a Thursday summons. (Hean Rangsey/VOD)
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NagaWorld workers’ representatives have asked for a delay after the Phnom Penh Municipal Court summoned them over a NagaCorp request for a verdict on their long-standing dispute over mass layoffs and alleged union-busting.

A summons issued by Phnom Penh Municipal Court judge Pech Vicheathor dated November 10 ordered Naga worker representatives Chhim Sithar, Chhim Sokhorn, Ry Sovandy and Sun Sreypich to appear in court Thursday afternoon. They were asked to give testimony based on a request from NagaCorp for a decision to recognize the termination of workers.

More than 1,300 workers were laid off at the Phnom Penh casino last year, and more than 100 continue to dispute their terminations. They say the layoffs targeted union leaders and members and amount to union busting. The protests have been ongoing for nearly a year.

Sithar, the NagaWorld union president, is in jail after being arrested over the weekend.

Sokhorn, the union’s vice president, told reporters Wednesday morning that she and two other representatives had asked for a delay in giving testimony as they were not ready and did not have lawyers.

“I submitted a letter for a delay, and the court official received it and told me that they will send it to their superior,” she said, but added she did not know whether a delay was granted.

Sokhorn said the latest court summons added to the persecution that workers had faced. Other protesters have been questioned over alleged trespassing, while top leaders, including Sokhorn, were arrested in January before being released on bail.

Court spokesmen Y Rin and Suos Vithyearandy could not be reached for comment.

In a statement dated November 30, the Labor Ministry said it had held 21 mediation meetings with the protesting casino workers, and only 124 of them had yet to accept termination.

“The ministry will continue to organize meetings and mediate the dispute, and in case the two disputing parties can’t find a solution and reach a compromise, the ministry encourages the two parties to bring the case to the court,” it said.

The U.S. State Department, meanwhile, issued a statement Tuesday urging the release of NagaWorld union president Sithar, who was arrested for allegedly breaching bail conditions.

“Cambodian authorities have previously interfered with the exercise of workers’ rights by detaining union leaders and workers protesting the wrongful termination of NagaWorld employees,” it said.

“We urge Cambodian authorities to release Chhim Sithar and all detained trade unionists exercising their rights to freedom of association and peaceful assembly, drop charges against them, and move to constructively resolve their disputes.”

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