No Protests, No Arrests, Court and Union Agree

Court officials in Kompong Speu province on Friday negotiated a settlement with a group of garment work­ers who have been protesting against the arrests of two union leaders, with the court agreeing not to order further arrests in the case if the workers restrict their protests.

Hundreds of workers from the Hong Kong-owned Agile Sweater factory angered judges and prosecutors this week by protesting loudly outside the provincial court for the release of the two unionists, who are charged with fraud and incitement. 

According to the agreement struck on Friday, the court will not order the arrest of any additional union members if the workers re­frain from protesting in front of government buildings, provincial prosecutor Keo Sothea said.

On Monday, we will question the people who are involved with this case more, but we will not ar­rest anyone else,” Mr. Sothea said.

Mr. Sothea was accused by a provincial police official on Thurs­day of threatening to order a military crackdown on workers if they continued to protest.

On Friday, the prosecutor de­nied the claim and said that the official, provincial penal bureau chief Sam Sak, did not know what he was talking about.

“It is not true. I called to warn him, please don’t talk like this next time,” Mr. Sothea said.

Mr. Sak defended his claim, saying that although he had not heard the prosecutor’s comments firsthand, he heard garment workers discussing them.

“I did not join the meeting, but I heard garment workers talking about this, so I also talked about this,” he said. 

Kim Chansamnang, president of the Trade Union Worker Fed­eration of Progress Democracy (TUWFPD), a factory-affiliated un­ion at Agile Sweater, corroborated Mr. Sak’s claim.

“[Mr. Sothea] said he has the right to order soldiers, police, military police and other forces,” Mr. Chansamnang said.

The dispute at Agile Sweater stems from workers’ attempts to break away from TUWFPD and start a branch of an independent union, the Union Federation of Asean Workers (UFAW).

The factory filed a complaint accusing those who helped set up the new union of fraud and incitement.

Ley Sokchea, deputy secretary-general of UFAW, said the workers had demonstrated outside their factory on Friday and would do so againon Monday.

“We are not scared of their threats because we protest peacefully,” he said.

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