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Activists chided after leading worker protest

Srey Chamroeun leaves the National Assembly last month after protesting in Phnom Penh’s Freedom Park with garment workers and delivering a petition.
Srey Chamroeun leaves the National Assembly last month after protesting in Phnom Penh’s Freedom Park with garment workers and delivering a petition. Hong Menea

Activists chided after leading worker protest

The Labour Ministry has chided social media celebrity Thy Sovantha and student leader Srey Chamroeun for claiming to represent unions and workers at a recent protest, and threatening legal action if it happens again.

The two led 100 garment workers in a July 24 protest of a speech made by CNRP leader Sam Rainsy at the European Parliament asking the bloc to use garment imports as a bargaining chip to improve human rights in Cambodia. Their letter to City Hall seeking permission for the protest claimed the pair represented the workers.

The letter rebuking the pair was issued on Friday following a request for intervention the day before from Free Trade Union (FTU) deputy president Man Seng Hak. “We warn Srey Chamroeun and Thy Sovantha to stop any union-related activity without registering [as a union] immediately,” Koy Tepdaravuth, head of the labour dispute department, said in the letter.

Tepdaravuth also warned the duo that they would face legal action as per the provisions of the Trade Union Law.

While the FTU letter cited articles 80 and 81 of the Union Law, which prevent unions from organising activities without registration, Sovantha and Chamroeun said they didn’t claim to represent workers. “Thy Sovantha and I do not accept the warning letter from Ministry of Labour because we are not wrong,” Chamroeun said yesterday.

He added that they were consulting lawyers and would clarify their position at a yet-to-be-announced press conference.

Seng Hak said the warning letter from the ministry was a fair response.

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