Six union organizers were arrested in Svay Rieng province Wednesday while distributing letters to workers in an attempt to refute rumors that their union had taken cash in exchange for not protesting over the firing of eight of their members, according to the union and police.
Shortly before 5 p.m., police arrested six members of the Collective Movement of Union of Workers outside the Manhattan Special Economic Zone in Bavet City and brought them in for questioning at the Bavet commune police station, according to Hun Savorn, deputy Bavet City police chief.
“We arrested them at 4:45 p.m. this afternoon because they were sharing the letter to incite the workers to do bad things,” he said. “And those people were acting illegally because they had no permission from authorities to do that.”
Mr. Savorn said the unionists were released at about 6 p.m. after signing a document promising not to distribute letters to workers without permission.
The letter the six were distributing Wednesday, which was printed on the union’s stationery, denied claims that its leader and members had accepted bribes from the Chinese-owned Eastern Industrial Enterprise factory in exchange for accepting the sacking of eight unionists last month.
“The claim is not true. The company has the intention to stop brothers and sisters from joining the protest to bring the workers back to work,” the letter says.
Chea Odom, 26, who was among the union representatives arrested Wednesday, said administrators from the Eastern Industrial factory began to spread false rumors among workers in the days after the eight unionists were fired on January 19.
Mr. Odom said factory representatives told workers that Pav Sina, the head of the union, and the fired workers were paid not to protest their removal.
“When we filed a complaint with the police for defamation, they didn’t care,” he said. “But when we shared the letter to explain [the truth] to the people, they arrested us.”
Factory representatives could not be reached.