Labor Leader Wants Unionists’ Charges Dropped

A prosecutor at the Kompong Speu Provincial Court said on Wednesday that charges would stand against five union officials who were released on bail last month af­ter they were arrested during a brawl with a rival association, de­spite calls by a prominent labor leader to drop them.

The officials, from the Collective Union of Movement of Workers (CUMW), clashed violently with rep­resentatives of a factory-aligned union outside the Agile Sweater fac­tory on January 12—the same day that about 400 workers at the fac­tory were fired for striking over working conditions.

Union leader Pav Sina, right, holds a press conference outside the Labor Ministry in Phnom Penh on Wednesday. (Khem Sovannara)
Union leader Pav Sina, right, holds a press conference outside the Labor Ministry in Phnom Penh on Wednesday. (Khem Sovannara)

Speaking during a press conference outside the Ministry of Labor in Phnom Penh, CUMW president Pav Sina called on the ministry to pressure the provincial court to drop the charges—causing intentional violence, inciting others to commit a crime and disrespecting a court order—against the five unionists.

“Please, we call on the Labor Min­istry to intervene…to drop the charges against our five unionists, be­cause they [merely] tried to make the factory comply with the law,” he said.

However, Keo Sothea, a deputy pros­ecutor at the provincial court, said the charges would remain.

“There is no way the charges will be dropped, and they have to face trial,” Mr. Sothea said, declining to comment further.

Mr. Sina also asked the Labor Ministry to pressure the Hong Kong-owned factory to reinstate the fired workers and requested that the Ministry of Commerce suspend its export license.

He then used the opportunity to blame the violence in early January on Sok Ravuth, head of the factory-aligned Trade Union Workers Fed­eration of Progress Democracy. Mr. Ravuth filed the court complaint alleging that the CUMW members induced the clash when they arrived at the factory.

“We called this press conference here to tell [the ministry] that the person who instigated the violence is Sok Ravuth. The police arrested our officials but they just worked in the factory as normal, so the ministry needs to take action,” Mr. Sina said.

Officials at the ministries of la­bor and commerce could not be reached for comment.

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