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Sabrina workers out after months in jail

Eight unionists locked in prison in Kampong Speu province since violent clashes at the Sabrina Garment factory in May and June were released on bail yesterday, court and union officials said.

Cheum Rithy, a provincial judge, said he had decided to release the eight Free Trade Union members because they had been “detained long enough” and because the plaintiff had withdrawn demands for compensation.

“I see they have been detained for four months – that’s long enough,” he said.

The eight men still face charges of inciting violence and destroying company property at the factory, charges they deny.

They will be re-arrested if they “do something wrong”, Rithy added.

Chea Mony, FTU president, yesterday claimed credit for the unionists’ release, saying the decision had been a direct result of his urging garment workers to join opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party protests that begin in Phnom Penh tomorrow.

“Yes, of course they decided to release them immediately after I announced to all workers that they should join … to demand the court release the eight workers and increase wages to $150 per month.”

Mony added that he will continue to make demands for a wage increase through the Labor Advisory Committee.

A mother of one of the eight unionists, who didn’t want her name printed, said yesterday she was very happy when she learned her son would be released on bail.

“I met my son at the pagoda after he left the prison and came to be blessed,” she said. “I am so happy to see him free. I cried for many months because I missed him.”

The eight unionists either declined to comment or could not be reached yesterday.

Multiple clashes broke out at the factory, a supplier to sportswear giant Nike, in late May and early June.

Members of FTU allegedly clashed with members of the rival Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union, while police and workers also clashed, resulting in a number of injuries.

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