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State queries union leaders about threats

OFFICIALS at the Interior Ministry yesterday questioned three labour leaders as part of an ongoing investigation into reports that they were threatened because of their involvement in last week’s large-scale garment strikes, officials said.

Chhay Sinarith, director of the Internal Security Department at the ministry, said yesterday that officials launched the investigation last week to identify two anonymous callers who had threatened Ath Thun, the head of the Cambodian Labour Confederation.

He said the first call came on August 28, less than two weeks after Ath Thun announced that more than 60,000 garment factory workers would strike in response to a July decision that set the industry minimum wage at US$61 per month.

He said one caller had told a colleague of Ath Thun’s to “tell your boss, don’t be so strong”, and had also threatened that the union leader would be arrested if he followed through on plans to organise the strikes.

Chhay Sinarith declined to name the CLC member who received the messages.

He said the calls had come from a private number, and that the ministry had not yet identified any suspects.

“I am searching with the phone company to find out the number and name of the callers who threatened Ath Thun’s colleague,” he said. “I will summon Ath Thun and his colleague who got called for questioning again.”

Ath Thun yesterday confirmed that he and two other labour leaders had spoken with officials at the Interior Ministry, but declined to comment further on the threats he received, citing the ongoing investigation.

The other two union leaders present were Mom Nhim, president of the National Independent Federation Textile Union of Cambodia, and Moeun Tola, head of the labour programme at the Community Legal Education Centre.

Mom Nhim said she had received threats via SMS text message, and that all three labour leaders had been harassed and followed by unidentified men on motorbikes during last week’s strikes.

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