The leader of the labor union that is involved in the ongoing casino workers’ strike at NagaWorld resort was once again arrested over the weekend, at the Phnom Penh International Airport. The arrest, which took place on November 26th, has raised further uncertainty about how the legal dispute between the casino operator and some of its workers is being approached by the local courts.
As confirmed by local media outlets, Chhim Sithar, who heads the Labor Rights Supported Union (LRSU) of Khmer Employees of the NagaWorld integrated casino resort, was re-arrested at the Phnom Penh airport once she arrived in Cambodia following a 12-day trip to Australia.
Under the court order that the Phnom Penh Municipal Court issued, the head of the LRSU union was taken into custody and put under pre-trial detention for leaving Cambodia while under court supervision without getting the necessary permission from the competent authorities. Ms. Sithar was previously arrested in January 2022, along with some other worker union leaders, for allegedly encouraging social chaos during the casino workers’ strike. She was released on bail in March.
The second arrest of the union leader infuriated Am Sam Ath, the deputy director of LICADHO, who claimed that she and her legal representatives were not notified of being supervised or being suspended from traveling outside the country. He also claimed that Ms. Sithar’s lawyers along with a defense lawyer from the rights group would meet the arrested the Labor Rights Supported Union’s chief in person.
Union Leader’s Arrest Is Unnecessary Demonstration of Judicial Power, LICADHO Deputy Director Claims
Am Sam Ath further noted that the second arrest of Chhim Sithar can be considered a further threat and intimidation of the worker union at the NagaWorld integrated casino resort. He also described the actions of the casino resorts’ former and current employees as an intimidation tactic. The strike of the workers is still ongoing, with NagaWorld’s employees seeking a fair solution to the situation.
Sam Ath also suggested that a more flexible approach would have been more efficient in finding a solution to the dispute between the casino and its workers, who are being represented by the LRSU union rather than the demonstration of judiciary power that the authorities chose to make through the recent arrest of the union leader. According to him, the arrest of Ms. Sithar is an unjust restriction not only of the civic space but also of the labor union’s freedom, which affects fundamental public freedoms.
Employees of the integrated casino resort NagaWorld went on strike in 2021. They are demanding that the casino company operating the casino rehires the workers that were laid off in April 2021, claiming that the company decided to dismiss the workers because of their links to the aforementioned union.
Reports have shown that the majority of the laid-off NagaWorld employees are members of the Labor Rights Supported Union but the casino company argued that it was the negative impact of the coronavirus pandemic that forced it to initiate the lay-offs. The disagreement at the integrated casino resort in Cambodia will mark one year in December.