Labor Ministry Sues Union Leader, Officials for Defamation

A day after being hit with a defamation lawsuit from the Ministry of Labor, union leader Pav Sina made an appearance at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Thursday over a more trivial complaint.

Mr. Sina said he had received a copy of a summons on Wednesday related to the ministry’s lawsuit, which accuses him and three fellow leaders of the Collective Union of Movement of Workers (CUMW) of several crimes.

Pav Sina, center, walks into the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Thursday. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)
Pav Sina, center, walks into the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Thursday. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

“They filed a complaint against me and my three officials for public defamation, insulting public civil servants and blocking a public road,” he said.

Labor Ministry spokesman Heng Sour confirmed that a lawsuit had been filed against Mr. Sina and his colleagues but said it would be up to the court to decide whether it was worthy of pursuing.

“If there isn’t enough evidence and information, I believe the prosecutor will not process the case,” he said.

Mr. Sour referred further questions to Srey Makny, the deputy prosecutor who issued the summons and who could not be reached. Officials in the ministry’s conflict resolution department, which filed the complaint, were also unavailable for comment.

In February, Mr. Sina held a press conference outside the Labor Ministry, requesting that it intervene to have charges dropped against another five of his unionists, who had attempted to assist striking workers at the Agile Sweater factory in Kompong Speu province a month earlier.

“The conflict resolution department did not want me to criticize their activity or to ask them to solve problems for workers,” Mr. Sina said, adding that he had yet to find out details about the ministry’s grievance.

“They [filed the complaint] because they want to threaten our spirit so that we dare not criticize them seriously and protest against them,” he added.

Mr. Sina went to the municipal court on Thursday over a separate summons related to a complaint filed by the Southland garment factory, which has for years been locked in a dispute with CUMW officials attempting to establish a union there.

Southland has accused Mr. Sina of forgery and disinformation for misspelling the names of two factory employees on a document informing management that the pair planned to join his union, he said.

In an ironic turn of events, Mr. Sina declined to answer questions at the court on Thursday because his own name had been misspelled in the summons and complaint filed by the factory.

“I declined to answer because they also wrote the incorrect spelling for my name,” Mr. Sina said, adding that he would file an equally petty complaint against the factory in response.

“I think that this was a small mistake, but they accused me and filed a complaint against me,” he said. “I will file a complaint against the factory for the same crime that they sued me for.”

Kham Sophary, the deputy prosecutor in charge of the “forgery” case, and representatives of Southland could not be reached on Thursday.

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