A unionist and his neighbor are being detained by military police in Kompong Chhnang province on accusations of slapping a female factory administrator and trying to kill her, union officials said on Wednesday while suggesting the arrests were politically motivated.
According to the Free Trade Union (FTU), the dispute started when the unionist’s wife, Sam Chreb, was fired from the factory where she worked, Horizon Outdoor, for attempting to start a branch of the FTU there.
After being escorted out of the factory by security guards on Tuesday, Ms. Chreb alleges she was followed home by the chief administrator of Horizon, known only as Kunthea, according to Kan Sokvy, FTU chief at the nearby Can Sport Shoes factory.
“Ms. Chreb called to tell her husband that the administration chief followed her home,” Mr. Sokvy said.
Her husband, Phon Vanna, an FTU member who works at Can Sport Shoes, then drove to their home in Samakki Meanchey district to assess the situation, Mr. Sokvy said. However, Ms. Kunthea attempted to drive away from the scene after he arrived. Mr. Vanna then called a neighbor, Chem Chhuon, to help him confront the woman, and they pursued her car.
What happened next is unclear, but Ms. Kunthea claims that Mr. Vanna slapped her in the face and the men tried to kill her. Mr. Vanna claims she invented the attack.
“Mr. Vanna told me that he did not slap her but just wanted to ask her, ‘Why did you follow my wife all the way home? What is the problem with my wife?’” Mr. Sokvy said.
Military police from a nearby base responded to a call from Ms. Kunthea and arrested the two men, he said.
Buth Sopheak, commander of the base, confirmed the arrests and said the men were sent to the provincial military police headquarters, where they remained until being sent to the provincial court for questioning on Wednesday. He said they had not yet been charged with a crime.
FTU President Chea Mony said the arrests were suspicious and accused “a powerful person” of having orchestrated them.
“I have observed that when people become unionists, authorities and factory owners always discriminate against them,” he said.
Mr. Sopheak, however, insisted that they were arrested only because of the confrontation with Ms. Kunthea.
“If they hadn’t had a problem, we wouldn’t have arrested them,” he said.
“A woman called and complained directly to me that there were men attempting to kill her and that they pulled her from her car and fought her.”
A factory representative could not be reached for comment.