Siem Reap Hotel Protest Moves to Courthouse

About 200 unionists and past and present employees of Siem Reap City’s Victoria Angkor Resort & Spa on Monday demonstrated outside the Siem Reap Provincial Court against an injunction ordering them to stop protesting outside the high-end hotel, but agreed to disperse when military police arrived.

The protests, which started about three weeks ago, were sparked by what the employees claim was the wrongful dismissal of 17 hotel staffers in September and October.

“We want the court to drop the injunction because it restricts the workers’ rights,” one of the fired workers, Chan Socheat, said by telephone while in front of the courthouse. “They want us to end our activity, but they do not care about our livelihoods.”

The protesters accuse the hotel of firing the 17 employees for complaining about the management, airing their discontent online and associating with union members. They are demanding that the hotel give the workers their jobs back.

Morm Rithy, president of the Cambodian Tourism and Service Workers Federation, said the protesters arrived outside the courthouse at about 8 a.m. and left two hours later, when military police arrived and offered to help arrange a meeting with court officials next week.

But once the week was up, he said, “if the court does not decide to drop the injunction, we will be back.”

Judge and deputy court director Ky Righty, who signed the injunction issued last week, could not be reached for comment.

Keut Vannareth, a prosecutor at the court, said the protesters should file a complaint to the court rather than demonstrate. The protesters said they filed such a complaint the day the injunction was issued.

Pierre Nollet, the CEO of EEM, the Paris-based company that owns the hotel, defended the dismissals.

“They were not fired because we are paying their salaries until the end of their contracts,” Mr. Nollet said via Skype from Siem Reap.

“We have asked for security reasons that the 17 people no longer be at the hotel…. We are a five-star hotel; we cannot have people with bad behavior.”

Mr. Nollet declined to specify what alleged security concerns prompted the dismissals and denied that union activity had anything to do with the decision

“No, it’s not true,” he said. “That argument is stupid.”

The CEO also defended the injunction request, which was filed after a protest at the hotel on January 5.

“They entered the hotel and put the clients in danger,” he said. “We have photos; we have proof that they were violent.”

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