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Free Trade Union leader Choub Sok Leap
Free Trade Union leader Choub Sok Leap attends a staff meeting in Kampong Speu last month after being attacked. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Attacked unionist suspects factory

Police are still searching for suspects after an alleged attack on a Free Trade Union (FTU) leader in Kampong Speu last month, while union officials are pointing the finger at the management of the factory they were attempting to organise.

Two men on a motorbike pulled up alongside Choub Sok Leap, president of the newly formed FTU branch at Hirota (Cambodia) Garment, as she walked with her niece after her shift at about 6pm on December 17, Sok Leap said yesterday.

Wielding an iron bar, one of the helmeted men jumped off the motorbike, striking Sok Leap in the head, before jumping back on and speeding away with the driver of the bike.

“One man carried a long iron bar, jumped off the motorbike and hit me in the head, causing bleeding, and then they left the scene,” Sok Leap said. “No one could recognise them, because they got away too quickly.”

Management at Hirota were unhappy with the introduction of FTU to the factory in November, FTU official Ry Sithynet said yesterday.

Sok Leap said factory leadership asked her multiple times what good they expected to accomplish by unionising Hirota and ignored multiple attempts to dissuade her. The morning of the attack, she added, a member of the factory’s management took a photograph of her.

“There was a Chinese staffer who took my picture in the morning while I was working,” Sok Leap said. “I thought she took my pictures for pleasure, but I was attacked in the evening.”

Management at Hirota – which data from the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC) says is 90 per cent Japanese-owned and 10 per cent Chinese-owned – could not be reached by phone and did not respond to an email by press time yesterday.

As Sok Leap spent three days in the hospital and eight more recovering at home, she and fellow FTU members reported the assault to the Samrong Tong district police department.

District police chief Khuth Sophal said the department has never investigated an attack on a union leader, and has invited Sok Leap and witnesses to help track down her attackers, but is struggling to find any leads.

“We will not abandon our investigation,” Sophal said. “Although [suspects] are a bit difficult for us to find.”

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