Some 20 former security guards at the US Embassy in Phnom Penh protested on Tuesday against their dismissal. They accused their employers of falsely claiming they had viewed and shared child pornography from their mobile phones as grounds for their termination. In total, 32 personnel were dismissed in April.
When questioned on the matter, US Embassy spokesman David Josa told The Post: “We respect the right of anyone to protest peacefully, including our former security guards.
“The US government takes incidents involving child pornography and child exploitation very seriously. We do not comment on internal personnel issues.”
Nhum Sophorn, 45, claimed he had worked at the embassy for more than 18 years. He told The Post that the protesters would not accept the decision to dismiss them.
“The embassy took our personal phones for inspection and checked our personal Facebook Messenger group. Then it decided to fire us after we were accused of viewing and sharing naked images of a girl under the age of 10,” Sophorn said.
Another former security guard, Chuon Im, considered the decision to fire them as a violation of their rights. He said the embassy had the right to lay off staff, but they must provide appropriate compensation as per labour laws.
“The accusation is unfounded. The US Embassy is killing our careers, lives and families. We cannot find good jobs elsewhere to earn enough money to support our families,” Im said.
Legal expert Sok Sam Oeun said that generally, any institution that wanted to inspect the personal phones or Facebook accounts of employees must obtain a court order to do so.
“Employees can refuse to comply with such requests if they are not served with a court order. If the mobile phones were taken from the employees, then their employer has violated their personal rights. This is illegal and the employees can file a lawsuit against the embassy,” he said.
While Sam Oeun said he was not aware of the situation involving the security guards and the US Embassy, he said if employers found illegal content in the personal items of employees, then charges could be filed.
“The employer can also fire them without providing any compensation or benefits whatsoever,” he said.
Earlier, the protesters who were accompanied by family members held up posters, Cambodian and US flags, and pictures of President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Hun Sen.
Soy Siv Nheat, 42, said she joined the protest to support her husband, Long Sengkimhong, 52. The protesters demanded that Trump provide justice and deliver a solution for them.
“My husband didn’t film or watch any pornography. I believe him. I ask the US Embassy to let my husband have his job back because our family depends entirely on his salary,” she said.
Seng kimhong demanded that the embassy provide evidence and the source of the pornographic images allegedly found in the mobile phones.
The protesting security guards also demanded to be provided all the relevant benefits and compensation according to law. During the demonstration, a senior security officer at the embassy came out to receive a petition from the protesters.
However, he declined to comment when questioned by reporters, saying only that he would take the petition to the senior authorities at the embassy.