Union Leader Appeals Court Orders Restricting His Activities

Ath Thorn, the president of the country’s largest independent labor union, said Friday that he has appealed court orders restricting his unionizing activity and is seeking support from international labor organizations as he faces charges of incitement.

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court has ordered Mr. Thorn, president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union, to pay a $25,000 bail in order to avoid pre-trial detention over charges that he incited violence during a September 20 protest at the SL Garment Factory in Phnom Penh. 

On Tuesday, the court issued an injunction order telling Mr. Thorn to stay away from SL factory workers and refrain from joining pubic gatherings.

“We appealed to the Court of Appeal this past week, and we also sent a letter of complaint to international unions and governments for them to intervene,” said Mr. Thorn.

“We request to cancel the court’s decision because we did not commit the crime like the court charges.”

Mr. Thorn said that the municipal court’s bail order and injunction were meant to stifle his union’s efforts to rally worker support for a higher minimum wage as the government has grown increasingly heavy handed in suppressing strikes and protests in the garment sector.

“For the court to order us to pay a lot of money for bail, it is forcing closed our rights as a union,” he said.

Judge Chea Sok Heang, who has handled the case against Mr. Thorn, declined to comment when contacted Friday. However, his clerk, San Sakny, said the court was justified in its treatment of the union leader.

“The court’s charging him is not wrong, because the court charged him based on the law,” he said.


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