Sar Kheng Will Hold Meeting ‘to Listen’ About NagaWorld Dispute

3 min read
NagaWorld workers and civil society members protest outside a Prek Pnov quarantine center on March 8, 2022. (Licadho)

Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng will head a high-level meeting on Wednesday to discuss the nearly three-monthlong NagaWorld protests, according to a letter seen by VOD.

The letter is dated March 4 and says the meeting will include heads of the National Police, Phnom Penh court, municipal police, military police and officials from the ministries of interior, labor and justice. The meeting is to take place Wednesday afternoon with Kheng leading the proceedings, the letter says.

Interior Ministry secretary of state Sak Setha confirmed the meeting was scheduled to take place but said it was only to discuss the near-daily protests by NagaWorld workers, and not an attempt to find a solution to the labor dispute.

“Samdech [Sar Kheng] wants to listen to the municipality’s report on how far [the issue] has developed. It is not a meeting to find solutions and it is an internal meeting,” Setha said.

The meeting will also coincide with a deadline set by NagaCorp for active workers who have joined the strike to return to work or be fired, and for around 300 laid-off workers who have not yet agreed to their termination to accept compensation packages.

However, the meeting’s listed attendees said they were in the dark about it.

Phnom Penh deputy governor Keut Chhe, who signed the letter, said he was unaware what the meeting was for, and city spokesperson Met Measpheakdey said he hadn’t heard about the meeting.

Interior Ministry secretary of state Bun Honn said he would attend the meeting but did not know about the agenda. Heng Sour, a Labor Ministry spokesperson, said he did not know the meeting’s objective.

Meanwhile at Prek Pnov, around 180 NagaWorld workers remained at a quarantine facility after they were detained on Monday while attempting to resume their demonstrations.

NagaWorld workers and civil society members protest outside a Prek Pnov quarantine center on March 8, 2022. (Licadho)
NagaWorld workers and civil society members protest outside a Prek Pnov quarantine center on March 8, 2022. (Licadho)

Meach Sreyaun, one of the workers, said the workers have refused to get Covid-19 tests again. Sreyaun was at the same facility two weeks ago when local authorities and police started putting them in buses and carting them off to Prek Pnov.

“There is no reason for me to test for today since I just stayed at a quarantine center and they are treating us differently from other people,” she said.

Workers have had their rallies blocked by authorities, who have used Covid-19 restrictions to justify their crackdown. Workers claim officials are selectively enforcing these rules to target protestors.

Sreyaun added that workers were still negotiating with health officials to get released.

Michelle Bachelet, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, mentioned the protest in her speech to the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland, Monday night. She pointed to the Cambodian authorities’ use of Covid-19 restriction as a “pretext to break a lawful strike by casino workers.”

“In contrast to measures applied to the general public, strikers have been arbitrarily detained and forced to test multiple times for COVID-19,” she said.

She said it was critical to protect fundamental freedoms, especially heading into the commune election in June, where “the country’s largest opposition party is precluded from running and many of its leaders and supporters are exiled, detained and even facing prosecution for conduct legitimate under international law.”

Additional reporting by Mech Dara

The story was updated at 8:58 p.m. to correct Meach Sreyaun’s name.

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