Updated: NagaWorld Union Leader Detained at Phnom Penh Airport, Sent to Prison

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Union leader Chhim Sithar speaks to a local official at Wat Botum park on June 20, 2022. (Hean Rangsey/VOD)
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NagaWorld union leader Chhim Sithar was questioned at the Phnom Penh International Airport today and has been sent to prison, with a police official saying she violated her bail conditions.

Phnom Penh Police spokesperson San Sokseyha said the immigration police had arrested Sithar at the airport because the Phnom Penh Municipal Court issued an arrest warrant for the union leader.

He said this was because she had traveled overseas, which was against her bail conditions. He added that she had been taken to court.

“This morning the Phnom Penh police cooperated with [immigration at] the airport because of an arrest warrant of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court for failure to comply with the court decision on March 14, 2022,” he said, referring to the day Sithar was released on bail.

“Sithar doesn’t have a right to leave Cambodia unless the court decides for her.”

Sithar and 10 others are on bail, but it was unclear whether they were prevented from traveling overseas, and whether there were restrictions on reasons she could leave the country.

Licadho, which represents some of the charged NagaWorld workers, said Sithar had been moved to Prey Sar prison this afternoon.

The rights group added that Sithar’s lawyers were not aware or informed of “any judicial supervision or probation conditions, such as travel restrictions.”

According to information from labor rights group Central, the union leader was returning from a labor conference in Australia when immigration officers at the international airport scanned her passport and then escorted her away for questioning.

Central added that Sithar was arrested at around 10 a.m. Saturday morning and that rights groups and her lawyers have not been able to reach the prominent union leader since. 

Sithar was violently arrested near the National Assembly in January and jailed with at least 10 other union colleagues earlier this year. They were released in March after signing letters requesting the Labor ministry for bail and agreeing to suspend the strike to enable negotiations.

The union went on strike last December after NagaCorp terminated more than 1,300 workers. The nearly yearlong protest started off strong but has since withered down to less than 200 protesters, who have attempted to continue their protest on a weekly basis in the face of violence from the police. 

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