Eight of the 11 union leaders and members who were formerly employed at the NagaWorld integrated resort and were arrested for organising protests over their layoffs were released on bail by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on March 14.

The remaining three detained union activists have now separately submitted a letter to the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training also seeking release on bail.

The eight detainees were released after they submitted a letter to the labour ministry calling for official intervention to negotiate a resolution to the labour dispute with the company that also promised that no more rallies would be held.

The letter was submitted on March 12 to the ministry through Khlot Dara, director of Prey Sar prison’s Correctional Centre 2 in Phnom Penh. The letter – signed with the thumbprints of the eight former employees – said that in order to resolve the dispute, they called on all NagaWorld employees who had not yet returned to work to do so together in order to protect the interests of the workplace and create an environment for a negotiated resolution.

Union activist Sun Sreypich, who was one of the detainees released on bail, told The Post on March 15 that union activists and members were finding ways to meet with other strikers to discuss and gather opinions on how to resolve the dispute.

“Because I have just been released on bail, I have not yet met with the other members to see what conditions might be changed. I want to first know the situation and opinions of other members who went on strike outside,” she said.

She said they would find a proper venue for an in-person meeting – or virtually – to find a common ground and would then contact the ministry.

Sreypich said that for the time being, the released activists and leaders have asked the striking members to suspend their protests first and those who have not yet been dismissed from the company should return to work first so as to give their group time to negotiate.

As promised in the letter, the NagaWorld workers did not go on strike on March 15.

Chak Sopheap, executive director of the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights, welcomed the release of the union activists.

“There are three more union members arrested and detained for the law on measures to control Covid-19 and other contagious diseases. They have not yet been released... I hope that they all will be freed and that all parties concerned can negotiate a solution to the labour dispute that is acceptable to all parties and fair,” she said in a Facebook post.

The strikes began on December 18, 2021, demanding the reinstatement of more than 360 employees who had been laid off. The company cited the economic downturn due to the pandemic as the reason for their layoffs while the striking workers countered that it was targeted at union members and activists.