NagaWorld protestors were met with violence by security personnel on the streets of Phnom Penh Monday afternoon, after weeks of their protests proceeding relatively subdued.
Police and district guards pulled and shoved about 100 workers Monday afternoon at the intersection of Sothearos and Sihanouk boulevards, as they attempted to make their way to NagaWorld casino to resume their protests.
The workers walked north on Sothearos Boulevard, arms locked together, when they were met with dozens of police officers and security guards. The protestors resisted as police tried to break through the workers, only managing to pull away one or two at a time. They were shoved into waiting city buses, according to Facebook livestreams taken by the workers.
“I am a woman, I have nothing. We are all women, we have nothing,” one of the workers could be heard saying.
Police continued to pull at the workers and shove them, with people in plain clothes and deputy Phnom Penh governor Mean Chanyada yelling orders at security personnel. In the background of the livestream, district security guards could be seen blocking U.N. observers.
The police officers and city officials could be seen pointing to the pavement and asking the workers to move off the street.
Suddenly, the plainclothes officials ordered police and security guards to retreat behind a barricade and after a few minutes the bus that was being filled with workers was also driven away empty.
The worker stayed behind the barriers, chanting slogans and calling out to Hun Sen to intervene in the case. They left just before 5 p.m. and said they would continue the protest on Tuesday.
The workers have been protesting since December 2021, with recent protests seeing workers reach the casino complex and compliantly board buses. The buses normally drive around the city before workers are let off at the new Freedom Park in Russei Keo.
Keut Chhe, Phnom Penh municipality spokesperson, denied officials used violence against the protestors. He said it was illegal to protest on the streets because it caused traffic and that protestors had been asked to continue their protest at Freedom Park.
Authorities have regularly blocked traffic with barriers to seal off the major intersections to apprehend the protestors, often closing the major roadway for hours at a time.
“The authorities never [used] violence with protestors. But the protestors did not listen to the authorities’ orders,” Chhe said. “The authorities also got small injuries too and lost some of their equipment as well.”
Sin Sreynich, one of the workers, said plainclothes officials were the ones hitting and shoving workers, and were reluctant to listen to the workers.
“They were not listening to us. We tried to compromise with them and talk kindly,” she said.
Has Rithyratana, another worker at the protest, said she was scared but that the workers were united in continuing the strike.
The union, Labor Ministry and NagaWorld have gone through multiple rounds of negotiations, all ending in no resolution. The union’s key demand is for reinstatement of about 200 workers who have refused to accept compensation. The casino company has been more willing to negotiate other demands.
Workers were terminated last year sparking near-daily protests in the capital. Nine union leaders and workers were arrested earlier this year but released on court supervision.