Union Head Skips Court Appearance Again

Phnom Penh Municipal Court prosecutors will again issue a warrant ordering a local union president to court for questioning over defamation allegations after she failed to appear before a judge Friday.

Chhorn Sokha, president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Union is accused of insulting Chea Soeun, head of the Sino Nature Garment Factory, in De­cember during a workers’ strike.

“She didn’t show up in court this morning, I didn’t suspend the warrant,” court deputy prosecutor Nget Sarath said Friday.

Lawyers for Chea Soeun claim Chhorn Sokha accused their client of not being a real “okhna,” a title granted by the government to certain businessmen. Chea Soeun says he is an okhna, according to attorney Sar Samnang.

Chhorn Sokha earlier admitted to leading the 12-day strike over working conditions and the factory management’s failure to pay workers for two days in Nov­ember. She denies ever insulting Chea Soeun, saying she never knew him before he brought the defamation suit.

She said on Friday the court’s previous warrant did not clearly state whether she was being sued as an individual, or if her union was being sued.

“I want the court to state clearly in the warrant whether [Chea Soeun] sued me personally or the whole organization,” she said.

Chhorn Sokha said earlier she is worried that authorities will arrest her if she goes to court for questioning. Labor activist Jason Judd of the American Center for International Labor Solidarity said last month factory management was likely using the warrant as a way to suppress union activity.

Labor disputes continue to plague Cambodia’s apparel industry despite attempts to smooth relationships between labor activists, unions and garment factory owners.


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