Police Defend Arrests of Striking Workers as Preventing ‘Chaos’

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A police van carrying six NagaWorld workers leaves from the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on January 2, 2022. (Mech Dara/VOD)
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Striking NagaWorld workers received money transfers, were photographed with an opposition politician, and were a “movement” causing “chaos,” police said Tuesday after arresting more than 20 people in the past week.

Phnom Penh casino workers have been keeping up a daily rally starting last month over the termination of more than 1,300 workers, including all top union representatives.

There have been 100-1,000 rally participants most days, excluding the weekend following the arrests of 10 people on New Year’s Eve. Seventeen more were arrested on Monday as the rallies resumed.

Phnom Penh police held a press conference Tuesday morning that barred reporters from some outlets, including VOD, but was broadcast online.

Bun Sosekha, Phnom Penh deputy police chief, said officers had arrested nine people at the union’s office around the demonstration on December 31, and confiscated computers, phones and other evidence for an investigation.

The officers found on the devices that “there is support from overseas and three organizations — one foreign and two local — from which they have received funds, some hundreds of thousands of dollars, to support the protest,” Sosekha said.

He then showed a photo of union president Chhim Sithar with Mu Sochua, vice president of the outlawed opposition CNRP. “You can see what kind of person she is,” Sosekha said of Sithar.

Sithar was arrested later Tuesday.

“We have truly seen that they are transferring $100,000 to them to cause chaos and incitement,” he said without specifying the money’s origins. “Their plan: During the new year they would rock the people’s happy festival.”

“In the world, you cannot hide, so I have all this evidence,” he said.

Deputy municipal court prosecutor Heng Seang added that six people arrested on Friday had already confessed that “there truly was support and financing of the movement.”

“This is not a small deal — how could you receive financial support illegally from overseas and locally to hold an illegal movement?”

“This group has prepared ill tricks to cause chaos to our society,” Seang said, adding that the six suspects’ confessions all matched up.

Phnom Penh police spokesperson San Sokseyha added that authorities had arrested 17 people on Monday.

“We will do more investigating to see whether these people have been involved with causing chaos and the incitement movement or not,” Sokseyha said. “If the investigation finds that there is clear evidence, we will send the case to the court like the six people.”

Of the 10 arrested on Friday, four were released on Monday.

On Tuesday, workers continued their rally in Phnom Penh.

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