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Police detain hotel unionists

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Former employees of the Angkor Village Hotel and Resort protest yesterday, demanding they be reinstated, as ordered by the provincial court .

Police detained two unionists and broke up a protest in Siem Reap province yesterday where workers demanded the owners of the Angkor Village Hotel and Resort respect a court decision ordering them to reinstate 67 workers.

On October 26, Siem Reap Municipal Court ruled that the luxury Angkor Village Hotel and Resort had to reinstate the workers, who had been unlawfully sacked for unionising, within three months ­– an order the hotel has yet to abide by.

However, Siem Reap provincial police chief Sou San said yesterday that his officers had detained the two men following an October 25 ruling ordering the union to cease holding protests.

“Police just questioned them and would like to know the reason why they didn’t respect the court order released on October 25,” he said.

Sok Narith, deputy secretary of the Cambodian Tourism and Service Workers’ Federation, said that he would not respect the authorities’ decision to enforce one ruling, but not the other.

“We’ll strike until everything is successfully settled,” he said, adding that the order forbidding them from protesting had been made following a complaint from Angkor Village Hotel owner Olivier Piot, without hearing the arguments of workers.

“I will send a letter to the United Nations to inform them about the justice system in Siem Reap province,” he said.

Olivier Piot and his partner Tep Vantho could not be reached for comment yesterday, but have consistently argued in the past that the workers were fired for a spate of offences unrelated to unionising, including attempting to poison management staff.

Dave Welsh, country director for the American Centre for International Labour Solidarity, said that the Angkor Village Hotel and Resort had now flouted an Arbitration Council decision, a legally binding court order and instructions from various municipal authorities to reinstate the workers.

“It’s not for the government to ask the hotel’s permission to enforce the law, it’s up to the government to tell the hotel to obey the law,” he said. “No hotel that violates the rule of law so flagrantly, regardless of what connections they have, should be allowed to operate in Cambodia.”

Siem Reap provincial governor Sou Phirin and deputy provincial prosecutor Chhun Sophanha could not be reached for comment yesterday. 

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