The younger sister of Prime Minister Hun Sen is the owner of a private security firm that has been hired to protect the SL Garment factory from its workers, who have been on strike for more than three months, officials at the firm said Wednesday.
Hun Seng Ny, the prime minister’s sister, is the owner of Garuda Securities, according to her assistant at the company, Sareth Thol, who added that the number of security guards employed at SL factory has been ramped up in recent months since strikes began in September.
“We just placed a small number [in the SL factory] at the start, but we increased the number because workers have been protesting for the past few months,” Mr. Thol said Wednesday, adding that there are now 75 Garuda security guards stationed at the factory on a daily basis, up from 10 when the security firm was first hired by the factory in December 2012.
Mr. Thol said he did not know if Ms. Seng Ny also was a shareholder at the embattled SL factory.
Ms. Seng Ny could not be reached for comment.
Workers at the factory Wednesday claimed that one of Mr. Hun Sen’s sons had assured them, in a public address prior to July’s national election, that his aunt, Ms. Seng Ny, would use her senior position in the SL factory to take care of its workers.
Thuong Savorn, a worker at the factory, said that Hun Manith, Mr. Hun Sen’s middle son, made the claim during a visit to the factory on behalf of the ruling CPP ahead of the election.
“Mr. Hun Manith told us not to worry from now on, because Her Excellency Hun Seng Ny is director-general of the SL company, so she can help to raise the salary for all of you,” Mr. Savorn said.
Meas Sotha, a shareholder at the SL factory, confirmed that the factory had hired security guards from Garuda, but he declined to comment on Ms. Seng Ny’s involvement with the factory.
“I decline to give comment regarding her business because this is her personal issue…. I recognize that the SL company rented security guards from her company,” Mr. Sotha said.
Mr. Sotha has himself been the target of much criticism among workers, who say that the presence of security forces in the factory and intimidation of union leaders have increased since he became involved in factory management in the middle of this year.
Mr. Thol, Ms. Seng Ny’s assistant, said that the Garuda security guards were only meant to maintain peace at the factory, and “are not allowed…to use weapons to confront the protesters—even long sticks are not allowed,” he said.
However, representatives of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Union (CCAWDU) claimed that security guards at the factory have intimidated striking workers, and on occasion resorted to violence.
“The Garuda security guards did not use weapons, but they used slingshots to bombard workers when they protest against the factory owners,” claimed Meas Vanny, a legal official with CCAWDU.
Seang Yaut, another legal officer at CCAWDU, said that security guards launched projectiles, including rocks and bottles, at striking workers during protests on October 30, 31 and November 1.
Violence has become a common occurrence during SL factory protests, with striking workers, mostly men, often lobbing rocks, coconuts or other projectiles at police or security guards, who have struck back with batons, tear gas, water cannons and, during a protest on Tuesday in Meanchey district, live fire that killed one bystander and injured several others.