Fired NagaWorld Workers Want to Meet Labor Minister as Protests Turn Violent

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A strike participant cries out amid a crowd of protestors and police that turned violent during the NagaWorld strike on August 11, 2022. (Hean Rangsey/VOD)

The NagaWorld protests again turned violent as workers tried to move police barricades blocking them from getting to the casino complex, with one worker left with a bloody nose after the tussle.

Workers have been protesting since December 2021 asking for the casino corporation in Phnom Penh to reinstate workers after NagaWorld terminated more than 1,300 workers last year. Only around 200 workers are still holding out for reinstatement.

Around 100 workers were again stopped by dozens of security personnel on the corner of Sihanouk and Sothearos boulevards in Phnom Penh as they tried to continue their strike outside the casino. The workers tried to pull away the metal barricades and were pushed back violently by security personnel.

At one point, a non-uniformed officer entered the group of protestors, with both sides pushing and shoving at each other as security personnel rushed to get the officer.

Pov Reaksmey, a strike participant, said one of the workers got a bloody nose in the skirmish and was sent to get medical treatment. Other workers were also injured, she added. 

She said the workers did not want to be stopped by the authorities and wanted to reach the casino to resume their protest.

“We don’t want to just stay here. We wanted to go to NagaWorld, so we needed to take these barricades away,” Reaksmey said.

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)
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)
Authorities surround and push a group of workers during the NagaWorld strike  on August 11, 2022. (Hean Rangsey/VOD)
Authorities surround and push a group of workers during the NagaWorld strike on August 11, 2022. (Hean Rangsey/VOD)

The scuffling continued for around 15 minutes before settling down. Workers and security personnel then resumed facing off across barricades. The workers left the area around 5 p.m.

Worker protests have eased off in the past few months and attendance has also waned, as the negotiations have failed:  NagaWorld only wants to discuss severance packages and the Labor Ministry has said the matter is now with the courts. 

Other unions have said they will support the workers by asking their members to strike but have yet to provide details of the planned collective action. Unions from the garment, hotel and informal workers sector have supported the idea of widening the protest to other sectors.

Earlier in the day, leaders of the Labor Rights Supported Union, backed up by 14 other unionists and civil society groups, went to the Labor Ministry on Thursday morning to ask for a meeting with Minister Ith Samheng and to find a resolution to the labor dispute.

The group then met with ministry officials including Tes Rokhapal, who is the deputy secretary-general of the resolution of strikes department.

Chhim Sithar, president of the NagaWorld union, said the meeting was not very fruitful.

“For poor workers like us, we don’t have the ability to sue the court against the NagaWorld company which has millions of dollars. We haven’t had a salary for many months,” she said.

But ministry officials did remind them of the criminal charges faced by workers, some of whom were arrested and jailed earlier this year.

At a late July meeting, the ministry had reminded them of the letters they wrote agreeing to ask their colleagues to suspend the strike to enable negotiations. The letters were used to grant them bail.

Prominent union leaders IDEA's Vorn Pov, CFSWF's Ou Tepphalin and CATU's Yang Sophorn joined NagaWorld workers at the gate in front of the Labor Ministry to submit a petition on August 11, 2022. (Hean Rangsey/VOD)
Prominent union leaders IDEA’s Vorn Pov, CFSWF’s Ou Tepphalin and CATU’s Yang Sophorn joined NagaWorld workers at the gate in front of the Labor Ministry to submit a petition on August 11, 2022. (Hean Rangsey/VOD)

Prominent unionists like Vorn Pov, who heads the Independent Democracy of Informal Economy Association, Yang Sophorn, president of Cambodian Alliance of Trade Unions, and Ou Tepphalin, president of the Cambodian Food and Service Workers Federation, were present at the Labor Ministry to support the workers on Thursday.

Pov said the minister should not hesitate to meet them as this was not a political issue.

“What we want is to talk with the Ministry of Labor face to face,” he said.

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