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Free unionists, FTU pleads

Garment workers burn a log outside the Cerie (Cambodia) factory in Kampong Speu’s Samrong Tong district earlier this week during a protest that prompted the detention of two union officials. Photo supplied
Garment workers burn a log outside the Cerie (Cambodia) factory in Kampong Speu’s Samrong Tong district earlier this week during a protest that prompted the detention of two union officials. Photo supplied

Free unionists, FTU pleads

The Free Trade Union has sent a letter to police seeking the release of two union officials arrested on Tuesday over protests at the Cerie garment factory in Kampong Speu province.

On Tuesday morning, plainclothes police arrested Yung Leap, a national FTU member, and Toch Srun, the leader of Cerie’s FTU branch, shortly after a protest in front of the Under Armour supplier in Samrong Tong district.

For almost a month, workers at Cerie have been protesting the November dismissal of three workers – including Srun – who were trying to establish a union.

“Please, National Police chief Neth Savoeun, intervene to release the two FTU union officials after police in civilian clothes arrested them . . . to find justice for the victims,” wrote FTU president Chea Mony in a letter sent on Tuesday evening.

Thoeung Chana, Srun’s wife, said that she and Chea Mony were currently at the Kampong Speu provincial court urging the release of the two union officials on bail.

“We want to meet them and want them to live free, not in prison, because they are not at fault,” she said.

But deputy provincial police chief Ngem Soa said the two would remain in prison for violently blocking workers from going to work during an earlier protest.

“The police have no right to release someone from the court. The company filed a complaint against them for leading a protest that burned tires and incited others,” he said.

Soa added that others were being sought for arrest over the case but declined to say who or how many, since no further warrants have yet been issued by the court.

In a separate case of protests sparked by allegedly anti-union dismissals, workers at the Starlight factory in Kandal province agreed yesterday to return to work today following a meeting with authorities.

The workers say they were attacked by security guards and alleged hired thugs during a march to Phnom Penh on Monday in which they demanded the reinstatement of eight workers fired for trying to start a union.

No arrests have been made, and the workers continued protests this week.

But Sieng Rithy, president of the Cambodian Labor Solidarity Union Federation, said that almost 800 workers would halt protesting and return to their workplace today after authorities promised to tell Starlight’s management to reinstate the eight workers and improve working conditions.

Kong Sophorn, Khsach Kandal district governor, said that Starlight’s management would only work on “finding a solution” after its workers returned.

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