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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - GMAC tries to discredit union leader at court

GMAC tries to discredit union leader at court

Questioning of a union leader found in possession of about 50 bamboo sticks is scheduled to continue in Phnom Penh Municipal Court today, after his arrest on Tuesday.

Cambodian Labour Solidarity Union Federation president Seang Rithy had 51 bamboo sticks in the trunk of his car as he led a strike at Apsara garment factory in the capital’s Por Sen Chey district.

Police determined that the sticks were meant to be used as weapons, but Rithy said they were intended for use as poles for small flags.

“Our union does not use violence or incite workers to hold strikes, but the workers asked us to help,” said union vice president Lo Sopheak. “The factory itself hires thugs to use violence against us.”

At a press conference hastily called yesterday by the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia, GMAC members and members of a public relations firm showed video footage of Rithy speaking outside the factory through a bullhorn, and smashing it on the ground at one point.

Rithy and his union, they said, had told media outlets that factory representatives smashed their equipment.

When asked who took the video, officials at the press conference said they did not know, and had found the footage on the internet.

“It’s not important to the story,” GMAC secretary-general Ken Loo replied when asked who shot the video.

Apsara garment factory general manager Khov Chhay, who was also at the conference, said that it was known that the bamboo sticks in Rithy’s trunk were intended for violent purposes, because Rithy previously posted on Facebook pictures of the bamboo sticks, saying they were a “gift” for the company.

A press release handed out at the conference called Rithy’s organisation violent, and said they use illegal means instead of negotiating with employers.

“The illegal, often violent, actions that we are witnessing for organizations like that led by Mr. Rithy cannot be considered as a viable alternative to negotiation and arbitration between workers and employers,” the statement reads.

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