19 of Released 23 Return to Prison for Prayers

Labor leader Vorn Pao, along with 18 other members of “the 23” garment workers, unionists and protesters released from prison last week, returned Wednesday to the correctional center where they were detained for more than five months to pray to the spirit that helped secure their freedom.

The group held the traditional ceremony, known as Lea Bamnon, in the prison campus, offering up chicken, pigs and fruits to the shrine of Yeay Mao, a powerful local spirit.

“We gave thanks to Yeay Mao for helping lobby the court to get us out of prison,” Mr. Pao said.

“I am very happy I was freed from prison and I will continue to demand proper living wages for the garment workers.”

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Friday convicted all 23 men, charged for their role in January protests, but released them on suspended sentences. Kea Sovanna, director of CC3, welcomed the ceremony.

“We allowed them to hold the ceremony because it is not wrong that they had faith in Yeay Mao,” he said.

Mr. Pao said he and the other defendants will meet with their lawyers tomorrow to discuss appealing their convictions.

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