AFP/Reuters – A United Nations rights expert said the arrest and detention of a union leader and activist in Cambodia has been a major blow. It may be a violation of human rights law.
Hundreds of workers gathered to protest the layoffs at a casino giant in central Phnom Penh. They are calling for the reinstatement of 365 employees who were laid off last year during the coronavirus pandemic.
Shim Sitha, a union head at Nagacorp Ltd’s casinos and hotels, was dragged into a car by undercover police. As she arrived at a protest on Tuesday, AFP reported.
“The arrest of protesters, mostly women, is a violent act and appears to be against freedom of association, assembly and expression,” a UN human rights expert said. called on the Cambodian government to explain the police’s actions.
Experts said nine arrests were made on Dec. 31, another 17 on Monday and three on Tuesday (4).
“The pattern and nature of these arrests appears to be an upgrade of the tactics used from previous cases that have occurred in Cambodia in recent years. As a result, human rights defenders are improperly jailed,” the expert said.
“The latest charges and arrests are of great concern as the country prepares for community elections this year. and the next year’s national elections This sends a message to the Khmer about their space for free assembly,” the expert said.
Shim Sitha, 34, NagaWorld’s union head of employees, is the latest labor rights activist to be arrested on charges of threatening public security.
As of December, employees of NagaWorld casinos operated by Hong Kong-registered Nagacorp Ltd. gathered to protest the layoffs of employees
But the police said Strikes are illegal and protests threaten public security, while NagaWorld describes layoffs as inevitable.
A spokesman for Phnom Penh police declined to comment on Shim Sitha’s arrest, and in a statement on Saturday, local police said: The court has declared that the strike is illegal.
“Her leadership and courage should be honored, not suppressed. She should not be accused and arrested for her legal work,” said Chak Supheem of the Cambodian Human Rights Centre.
NagaWorld communications manager declined to comment on Shim Sitha’s arrest, while a Labor Department spokesman did not directly comment on the arrest. But it cited a court ruling that declared the strike was illegal. After all attempts to settle the dispute were unsuccessful.
In the past, trade union leaders and workers who had left their jobs in Cambodia often faced problems. and in the past few years The mass strike, which occurs mainly in the manufacturing sector, is often accompanied by violence as police try to break up the crowd.
In 2020, several global clothing and footwear brands, including Adidas, PUMA and Levi Strauss, have a letter urging the prime minister to improve labor and human rights in the country.
But Hun Sen ignored criticism of the human rights situation. Especially when the criticism comes from western countries. With Cambodia’s largest donor, China, supporting measures that guarantees stability
In 2004, influential union leader Chea Vichia was shot dead in front of a newspaper store in Phnom Penh, while another union leader, Ros Suwanaret, was shot dead. was shot and killed the same year. Both of their deaths were never resolved.
Chim Sitha was born in Prey Weng province, worked at NagaWorld since 2007 as a supervisor. and became a member of the trade union in 2009
At the casino, she pushed pregnant employees to receive full salaries on maternity leave instead of half their salary. It also allows employees to get additional insurance.
“She is the epitome of courage. She wanted to sit down and find a way out. It’s not running from problems,” said Young Sophon, president of the Cambodian Alliance of Trade Unions.