Court Places Two More Union Heads Under Supervision

Five of the six union leaders accused of alleged criminal activity during nationwide garment worker strikes and demonstrations in December and January are now under judicial supervision after two more of the group appeared before the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Friday.

Rong Chhun, president of Cambodian Confederation of Unions, and Yaing Sophorn, president of the Cambodian Alliance of Trade Unions, are now, like their colleagues, banned from meeting with other union leaders or joining any public gatherings until they are tried on charges of intentional violence, destroying property and obstructing traffic. 

The charges relate to violence that erupted during the nationwide strikes on Veng Sreng Street, in the heart of the industrial area of Pur Senchey district, when rock-throwing protesters were violently suppressed by military police, who shot dead five workers and injured dozens more.

Both Mr. Chhun and Ms. Sophorn, who join fellow union leaders Ath Thorn, Chea Mony and Pav Sina in being placed under the court’s supervision, deny being present when the violence broke out or supporting the violence in any way.

After emerging from more than an hour of questioning, Mr. Chhun told waiting reporters that he and other union leaders would “continue with their mission” of advocating for workers’ rights.

“[W]hen they remove our rights like this how can we protect our members? It is like putting us in prison, but a prison without walls,” he said.

Contacted by telephone, Ms. Sophorn confirmed that she had also been placed under judicial supervision.

“Although they have restricted our freedom and our rights, we are not afraid of it and will keep protesting to protect our members’ interests and to protect all workers,” she said.

The nationwide strikes, which temporarily crippled the vital garment sector, were held in protest at what unions called an insufficient raise in the minimum wage.

The government is set to announce another raise to the current wage of $100 in November, to come into effect in January.

dara@cambodiadaily.com

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