No guarantee of rights

Same as last year

Workers' rights violations

Silencing the age of anger

On 1 September 2022, police suspended production at the Shoe Premier factory 2 in the Takeo province of Cambodia, ordering the Federation of Free Trade Unions of Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia (FTUWKC) to remove campaign postings from the union’s Facebook page.

Police officers intimidated the local FTUWKC president Sao Thoeurn, demanding that she sign an agreement on not posting anything that “can lead to problematic issues that affect society”.

With the inflation rate surging to 6.5 per cent in the first half of 2022, Cambodian unions were calling on the government to increase the minimum wage in the country’s textile and garment sector from US$194 to US$215.

Violent attacks on workers

Between June and August 2022, there were repeated incidents of police attacks on former and current workers demonstrating outside the NagaWorld Hotel and Casino, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, resulting in injuries.

Former employees had been protesting outside the casino since NagaWorld laid off 1,329 workers in April 2021. The company had used the Covid-19 pandemic as an excuse to restructure and had targeted union members in its layoffs. The strike began because of this in December 2021. As protests continued, the local authorities arrested dozens of union activists, and police officers forcibly removed strikers from the site.

At least 10 protesters were injured on 27 June 2022 when police violently broke up a group of former and current casino workers. In another incident on 22 July, laid-off worker Pov Reaksmey was struck, and fell to the road, while she and other protesters tried to walk up to NagaWorld.

There were more violent clashes, notably on 11 August when strikers from the Labour Rights Supported Union of Khmer Employees of NagaWorld Hotel and Casino, who were trying to access the area in front of the casino, were attacked as they tried to move past metal barricades. Around 80 police and mixed security forces then began violently hitting, kicking and shoving the mostly women union members to stop them from passing the barricades. At least 17 women were injured during the clash. One woman was reportedly hit in the face by a uniformed officer, which left her momentarily unconscious and bleeding from a gash on her nose.

One of the protestors, Yang Sophorn, later received a letter from the Ministry of Labour warning her that she would be punished if she continued her “illegal activities”.

Right to civil liberties

On 26 November 2022, Chhim Sithar, President of Labor Rights Supported Union of Khmer Employees (LRSU) and one of the leaders battling for union rights at NagaWorld Casino Hotel, was detained at the airport in Phnom Penh, Cambodia and then jailed while returning from the ITUC Congress in Melbourne, Australia.

She was rearrested for allegedly violating her bail terms, which arose from bogus charges of “incitement to social chaos”. She had been arrested on 4 January 2022 for organising workers’ strikes at the NagaWorld Casino Hotel. Neither she nor her lawyer were informed of these bail conditions.

Union busting

Seven workers had their contracts terminated at Eastcrown Footwear Industries in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on 11 October 2022 after they tried to form a union.

Factory management denied the workers’ dismissals were related to union activity but would not elaborate.

The union was created in response to the bad working conditions imposed by the company. Workers were forced to work overtime, denied requests to take leave, and made to sit through meetings during break periods.

The factory first tried to get the unionists to join the factory’s own company union instead, but when the workers declined, their contracts were terminated.

The seven unionising workers who lost their contracts were Yousa, Sokna, Eam Sambath, Duong Soknang, Matt Vy, Sarem Tharim and Suong Sarin. Two more workers who had tried to help form the union, Duong Tola and Horn Srey Neang, received termination letters on 22 and 24 October respectively. Initially, 16 had joined to form the union, but six had withdrawn in the face of threats.

Union busting

Three workers from the SYHJ Garment factory in Kandal’s Ang Snoul district, Cambodia, were fired without cause or notice on 20 April 2022. The dismissals came after they had formed a factory-level union in March.

The three workers filed a complaint with the Labour Ministry on the grounds that they were illegally fired for unionising and demanded their reinstatement.

Prosecution of union leaders for participating in strikes

In Cambodia, union representatives Noem Sokhoeun, Sean Sokleab and Pen Sophorn were briefly arrested by police on 31 May 2022 amid a strike at Can Sports Shoe Co, Ltd., in Kampong Chhnang.

At least 5,600 workers at Can Sports Shoe supported the strike, demanding the payment of delayed wages and overtime, and access to food vendors. At least 1,000 workers gathered outside the factory in Samakki Meanchey district’s Sethei commune, blocking a road.

The factory rejected workers’ claims on wages, and only agreed to address the workers’ other demands after union leaders were arrested and required to sign agreements by thumb print stating that they would not carry out any further activities that would cause “unrest” in the factory. Noem Sokhoeun, one of the arrested union leaders, said he had also been accused of incitement to commit a felony, which he denied.

Prosecution of union leaders for participating in strikes

In Cambodia, four female strikers at the NagaWorld Hotel and Casino complex in Phnom Penh, Sok Thavuth, Net Chakriya, Sang Sophal and Chhay Bora, could face up to 10 years’ imprisonment following a lawsuit filed in October 2022 by their employer NagaCorp, alleging charges of breaking and entering, property damage and unlawful confinement. They were issued with a summons to appear in Phnom Penh Municipal Court. The lawsuit was the first filed by NagaCorp against current and former casino employees, after hundreds went on strike in protest of mass layoffs.

For more than two decades, the management of the NagaWorld Hotel and Casino complex has refused to fully recognise the Union of Khmer Employees of Naga World (LRSU). Earlier in the year, LRSU leaders had been arrested and kept in pre-trial detention after a police raid at the union’s offices.

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