Six NagaWorld Unionists Questioned at Phnom Penh Court: Rights Group

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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)

At least six NagaWorld union members were presented for questioning before the Phnom Penh Municipal Court Sunday afternoon, according to a local rights group, two days after authorities arrested 10 people in a crackdown on New Year’s Eve.

At least nine people were arrested from the Labor Rights Supporting Union office Friday evening, with the union releasing a statement over the weekend saying a tuk-tuk driver who ferried materials for the union was also arrested on Friday. A 10th individual was arrested outside NagaWorld 2.

The authorities have labeled the 14-day strike as an illegal demonstration, and hundreds of security personnel disrupted the workers’ protest on Friday night.

Am Sam Ath, Licadho’s deputy director for monitoring, said six individuals had been taken to the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Sunday and then taken back to municipal police headquarters.

According to Licadho, the six unionists sent to court on Sunday were: Touch Sereymeas, Hai Sopheap, Re Sovandy, Kleang Sobin, Chhim Sokhorn and Sun Sreypich. Sam Ath said the remaining four union members were still at the police headquarters.

Phnom Penh police chief Sar Thet said on Friday that the arrested individuals were being investigated on alleged incitement charges.

The LRSU statement alleged that police had used excessive force during the arrests, surrounded the union’s office with cars, seized documents, and had now blocked the premises.

Ouk Sopheakmolyka, the partner of Touch Sereymeas, said it was disappointing that the authorities acted the way they did because the protest was against a private company and not the government. Sopheakmolyka added that some workers had congregated outside the police headquarters around 3 p.m. but did not stay longer than 60 minutes.

“The authorities are the ones who implement the law but then they abuse the law, and it is unacceptable,” said Sopheakmolyka. “This is sad because this is not a killing or robbery. They just protested about their work but the authorities’ actions against them was as if this was a serious crime and they had killed human beings.”

Sopheakmolyka added that the family was prevented from meeting Sereymeas and were told to deliver items and food when the union member was taken to court.

The LRSU union called for a strike on December 18 months after NagaWorld fired around 1,300 workers amid falling profits during the pandemic. Around 300 workers say they want to be reinstated, including top union leaders who were controversially part of the layoffs.

Chhim Sithar, LRSU’s president and one of the fired workers, said the arrests were aimed at disrupting the strike, but the protest would stop only when there was a fair solution.

“The workers’ nine points have not been solved yet and instead they arrested the [union] representatives, and the protest will not stop unless there is reasonable and acceptable compensation,” she said.

Reporters did not see any protesters outside NagaWorld over the weekend following Friday’s crackdown.

Municipal police spokesperson San Sokseyha has not responded to questions.

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