Ongoing casino workers’ protests diverged slightly from its usual routine on Wednesday as the demonstrators were able to rally outside Phnom Penh’s NagaWorld casino for around 20 minutes before being forced on buses and taken away.
The protesters arrived an hour later than usual, at 3 p.m., and approached the site in separate groups from all directions — getting them closer to the casino building than normal, workers said.
NagaWorld fired more than 1,300 workers last year, most of them union members. The layoffs also included top union leaders, leading to near-daily protests since December accusing the company of union busting.
Repeated negotiations, mediated by the Labor Ministry, have failed to make progress, as the workers have continued to demand the reinstatement of around 200 workers, including union leaders, but the company has refused.
Kong Sokhom said she was pleased with Wednesday’s change in tactics. “We needed to change our strategy. Because if we came at 2 p.m. we would just get detained,” Sokhom said. “I’m happy for today. I was able to stand in front of the company for a bit longer and shout for justice from the company.”
Another protester, Mam Sovathin, said 249 workers had joined the protest on Wednesday — a higher total than was seen on most recent days.
“We asked the other strikers to come back. We were accused by the authorities of being only a small group of protesters,” Sovathin said.
All 249 were put on buses and driven to the outskirts of the city, she said.
Municipal authorities have accused the protesters of illegal actions and have denied recorded instances of authorities’ violence against protesters. The city has said in a statement that the demonstrators’ yelling was “not suitable as Khmer women.”