Second Union Leader Under Court Supervision

Free Trade Union President Chea Mony on Monday became the second union leader to be placed under judicial supervision this month by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court for alleged criminal activity during nationwide garment worker strikes in December and January.

Mr. Mony told reporters after emerging from three hours of questioning that he had been banned from meeting with other union leaders or joining any public gatherings until after his trial for charges of intentional violence, threats, destroying property and obstructing traffic.

Free Trade Union president Chea Mony enters the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Monday for questioning over his role in nationwide garment-sector strikes in December and January. At least five other union leaders have been called to court this week over charges including intentional violence and destruction of property. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)
Free Trade Union president Chea Mony enters the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Monday for questioning over his role in nationwide garment-sector strikes in December and January. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

“The court put me under supervision…and I must report to the commune office once a month, and I am prevented from participating in or holding rallies,” he said.

A date for Mr. Mony’s trial has not yet been set, but the timing of his summons—and that of five other labor leaders—means the heads of some of the country’s most prominent unions are barred from taking part in a campaign for a $177 minimum wage set to launch on Wednesday.

Mr. Mony announced earlier this week that his union would not be taking part in the campaign.

Pav Sina, president of the Collective Union of Movement of Workers, was placed under court supervision on Friday. Court officials have not commented on the decisions against Mr. Mony or Mr. Sina.

Fellow union leaders Ath Thorn, Yaing Sophorn, Morn Nhim and Rong Chhun are also due to appear in court this week to be questioned over their roles in the garment sector protests, which were fatally suppressed by government forces after some turned violent in early January.

However, Far Saly, president of the National Trade Unions Coalition, said the group of unions would not be deterred from making workers’ voices heard.

“We are not afraid although the court has summoned or threatened to arrest us,” he said. “We will hold our campaign since we lost many workers during the protests on January 2 and 3.”

Keng Chhenglang, vice president of National Independent Federation of Textile Unions in Cambodia, said the unions had a “clear plan” for the campaign, which included targeting the offices of global brands and foreign embassies.

The government is set to announce a raise to the current minimum wage of $100 in October to come into effect in January. Garment factory owners are pushing for a more modest $10 raise this year, in line with the government’s plan to raise the floor wage to $160 by 2018.

The government’s decision to raise the minimum wage to $95 in December 2013 fell far short of the $160 being demanded by unions at the time and sparked the protests that ended in bloodshed days later, when military police shot dead five stone-throwing protesters on Veng Sreng Street and injured dozens more.

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