Jailed Unionists in Factory Dispute Released

Two workers from a garment factory in Kompong Speu province who were charged with a slew of crimes following their attempt last month to break away from the only union operating at their factory were released from jail on Friday, a court official and union leader said Monday.

The provincial court decided to release the two after management at the Agile Sweater factory in Chbar Mon City withdrew their complaint of fraud and incitement against three workers—one of whom was never arrested—on October 26, provincial prosecutor Keo Sothea said Monday.

“They were released Friday because the factory asked to drop the complaint with the court,” Mr. Sothea said, declining to comment further.

The three had been looking to gain a foothold for the Union Federation of Asean Workers (UFAW), which they said would remain independent from the management of the factory, unlike the existing Trade Union Worker Federation of Progress Democracy (TUWFPD), whose head also serves as a factory adviser.

Uong Phary and Y Thary were charged last month along with Heang Dy, who was not jailed, after they started a campaign to encourage workers to defect from the TUWFPD. Hundreds of their colleagues at the factory held demonstrations against their arrest, forcing management to drop the complaint in exchange for everyone returning to work.

Upon withdrawing their complaint against the three men last month, management at the factory said that their contracts would be terminated nonetheless. However, Yam Thai San, president of UFAW, said he would attempt to help the two get their jobs back.

“They have been released, we are happy about this and we have to negotiate with the factory until they agree to let them return because [the accusations] were fabricated,” Mr. Thai San said.

“For what they have been accused of, there is no law to justify them being fired, and our union will still work inside the factory because we have the support of many workers,” he said.

Factory representatives could not be reached.”

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