Sithar Chhim had checked every potential meeting room in downtown Phnom Penh, the capital city of Cambodia. Nobody would rent the president of the NagaWorld Casino Workers Union the room her union desperately needed to hold their strike vote with their 4,000 members.
NagaWorld Casino ownership, which had recently fired Chhim for leading a campaign for a wage increase, is so formidable a political and economic force in the city that no hotel or event hall wanted anything to do with the union’s strike planning. NagaWorld is Cambodia’s largest hotel and casino, and holds a monopoly-license on gaming anywhere within 200 kilometers of Phnom Penh for the next 25 years. Moreover, meeting in a public space in Cambodia was not an option, with the government almost certain to immediately shut down and disband any assembly.
This was just one of the many challenges facing the NagaWorld workers, and yet Chhim and 5,000 of her coworkers went on to wage a successful two-day strike that won huge wage increases and her reinstatement. In a country where any activism often faces severe repression, and against a remarkably powerful employer, the strike at the NagaWorld Casino ultimately brought casino ownership to its knees.