On March 31, 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic continued to spread like wildfire through the United States, much of the world was on lockdown in a desperate bid to halt the spread of the virus. Millions of workers were being laid off, furloughed, or, worse, required to report to work anyway—whether or not adequate safety measures were in place, and despite their own vulnerability to both the virus and economic pressure. South Asia’s garment industry has been hit particularly hard as orders dry up, workers become ill, and crackdowns on labor organizers proliferate. It was against this backdrop of terror and uncertainty that a young Cambodian garment worker and union leader named Soy Sros decided to log onto Facebook and call out her employer for putting her and her coworkers at risk. Soy never dreamed that using her personal social media page to speak out against injustice would become an issue—let alone land her in jail during a global pandemic.
The Cambodian Garment Worker Imprisoned for Speaking Out
Soy Sros spent nearly two months in prison after criticizing her employer’s response to the pandemic. She has been released, but her imprisonment has had lasting effects on her health and her workplace.