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Union leader arrested at strike in Svay Rieng

A union leader was detained briefly by police in Svay Rieng province yesterday while peacefully monitoring a garment worker strike.

According to striking worker Pum Sokunthy, 25-year-old Tun Saren, the director of the Svay Rieng branch of the Collective Union of Movement of Workers (CUMW), was arrested at about 9:30am after hundreds of You Li International (Cambodia) employees blocked National Road 1 in front of the factory while negotiations were taking place inside.

“I and other CUMW representatives were negotiating with labour officers and the deputy town governor when people in the union said Tun Saren was picked up . . . [so] we put off the negotiations,” Sokunthy said.

He added that workers marched to the provincial police station, where Saren was being held, to demand his release, which was granted at around 1:30pm.

The strike, which had entered its fifth day yesterday, had nearly come to a close with only two of 10 points – including bonuses and the wages of seamstresses – left to be settled.

Following his release, Saren told the Post he had refused requests from the police to end the strike.

“They asked me to thumbprint [a document] and take responsibility for the road block and stop striking, but I did not,” he said. “I’m not afraid of any threat”.

CUMW president Pav Sina said Saren’s arrest was intended to “dispirit” protesters, adding that union representatives are regularly targeted. “We just use our roles to protect workers, but we are under threat of being arrested.”

Ou Sokhoeun, deputy director of the Labour Department in Svay Rieng, and representatives of You Li could not be reached yesterday to confirm if a final deal had been reached.

A separate factory in Phnom Penh’s Vattanac 2 Industrial Park was ordered yesterday to cease operations until an inspection into mass fainting had been completed, officials said.

Teb Bunthen, Kraing Ponro commune police chief, said eight workers from Newpex factory “fainted last week and . . . [were] still not well [yesterday] but came to work and fainted again.”

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