In an unprecedented case, three Free Trade Union leaders at Kandal province’s Thai Ya garment factory were arrested Tuesday on accusations of prompting factory workers to refuse to work overtime, police and union officials said.
Khlork Samnang, 28, Korn Siny, 22, and Kim Sarith, 24, were accused of causing $12,000 in damage by inciting workers to refuse to work on April 12, FTU President Chea Mony said.
Ponhea Leu district Deputy police Chief Boeung Kim Heng said that he initially ordered five union leaders to appear in court for questioning Tuesday and that the three were put into handcuffs at the end of the questioning.
Pon Pov, 30, who was also summoned, was allowed to remain free because she is pregnant. Nov Noeurn, 25, did not show up for questioning.
“They are accused of inciting workers and have made the factory lose much revenue,” he said.
The police chief said that Prosecutor Chheng Phath ordered the arrests. Calls to Chheng Phath were unsuccessful Tuesday.
Khlork Samnang, interviewed by telephone before his arrest on Tuesday, said that 1,000 garment workers at Thai Ya refused to work overtime on April 12. That night, union member Korn Siny was pushed into an alarm bell, he said, which resulted in some chaos on the factory floor.
He said the factory owner claimed that 500 shirts had been taken in the chaos, and 100 shirts were spoiled with dye.
But, he said: “Not even one worker or union officials took or stole a shirt from the factory that day.”
Lim Chea, administrative chief at Thai Ya, declined to comment Tuesday.
Chea Mony said the arrest was part of a pattern of using court action to crack down on unions.
“They are starting to put pressure and are more strict on us,” he said.
Chan Soveth, investigator for the rights group Adhoc, said Chheng Phath should not have ordered the arrests without an investigation.
“This matter should be the obligation of the Ministry of Labor because it is a labor conflict,” he added.
In February, Kandal provincial court handed a 14-month suspended sentence to a union leader for leading a strike.
Many observers criticized that decision, saying it would open the way for courts to undermine the Labor Law’s requirement that the Ministry of Labor manage labor disputes.
In March, three leaders at the Hana Cambodia factory were fined $300,000 by the Kandal court for leading a strike.