Casino Denies Blocking Journalists at Protest

Journalists from Pailin and Battambang provinces on Monday accused employees of a Thai-owned border casino of blocking them from covering a dispute with employees and deleting their photographs.

On Saturday night, the journalists made their way to the Galaxy Gold Hotel & Casino near Pailin’s Prum International Checkpoint after 50 workers began protesting against what they claimed was the casino’s practice of having them work 10-hour days without paying overtime.

Lor Sokheng, a reporter for the Apsara News Network based in Pailin, said journalists from multiple outlets were blocked by casino security guards as they attempted to report on the demonstration.

“Before the incident, [some] journalists traveled from Battambang province, and then we saw the employees protesting outside the casino. So we parked the car and used our phones to take photos and interview the protesters,” he said.

“At that time, a security guard came quickly to grab Ream Sary’s phone and deleted all his photos inside his phone, then grabbed two phones from the other two journalists.”

Mr. Sary is a reporter for TV3 and the two others work for MSJ TV and Apsara News Network in Battambang, according to Mr. Sokheng.

“A woman claiming to be the manager said she didn’t care who we were. She would not let us take the photos because it affected her company while they were still negotiating with the employees,” he added.

“I think it is a violation of free press,” he said, explaining that local police failed to step in.

Provincial police chief Chea Chandin confirmed the bulk of Mr. Sokheng’s account, but said he went to the casino after receiving a call from the journalists.

“It was nearly 10 p.m. and dark and the security guards did not know they were journalists. I told them to stop [behaving like this] because they cannot hide information about the protest and it is the journalists’ job,” Brigadier General Chandin said.

On Monday, however, the Galaxy Gold’s administration director, Chhin Sophoan, said the security guards who confronted the journalists were not employed by the casino.

“The accusation is not true because my security guards did not come to grab the journalists’ phones or delete their photos,” he said.

Asked to explain the Galaxy Gold uniforms of the roughly two dozen guards present at the demonstration, which can be seen in photographs of the scene, Mr. Sophoan insisted they were       “outsiders.”

He said the casino had since resolved the overtime dispute with its employees, whose complaints had been unfounded.

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