Executive Allegedly Threatens Workers With Gun

Employees of a Swedish-owned graphic design company refused to work Wednesday and demanded their director, who claims to be a Ministry of Interior official, be fired after he allegedly threatened them with a gun.

Staff members at True Time Asia Phnom Penh claim their director Nhem Sopheak arbitrarily beat them, and threatened them with a gun, on Tuesday evening.

“Mr. Sopheak came inside the office drunk and angry,” said Sreng Ramo, 23, a designer with the company. “He beat three staff with a handheld radio and then he pointed a handgun and threatened to kill us while we were working.”

Tensions have been rising at the design company since July 1, when overtime pay was slashed. Workers, who make $162 per month, used to receive triple-time pay when working on Sundays and the company reduced it to double.

About 50 workers had met with Mr. Sopheak on Tuesday afternoon to demand triple-time pay be restored. Mr. Sopheak told workers only the Swedish owner was authorized to restore the triple-time pay.

Mr. Sopheak denied the workers’ claims but admitted to carrying a gun, which he says he was permitted to do as an Interior Ministry official. Ministry officials were unable to confirm Mr. Sopheak’s employment there.

According to Mr. Sopheak, he went to the office on Tuesday evening to complete some paper work. When he spotted workers sleeping, he instructed them to get back to work.

“About 10 people knocked me down and then more than 70 people more came to beat me,” Mr. Sopheak said. “My gun fell out of my pocket and the workers stole it.”

Mr. Sopheak denied he was drunk.

“I had brought the gun because I have the right to use the gun to protect my security,” Mr. Sopheak said.

“I think the staff was feeling unhappy and angry with me because we argued when they came to my office because I reused to raise overtime [pay],” Mr. Sopheak said. “But this is the company’s decision.”

Miroslav Slanina, the owner of the company, flew into Cambodia Wednesday to settle the dispute, according to Mr. Sopheak, but he could not be reached for comment.

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