The Phnom Penh Municipal Administration reiterated its calls for former NagaWorld employees to stop gathering to protest, as by doing so they were defying Covid-19 health measures.

So far, several dozen of the protesters have tested positive for the Omicron coronavirus variant.

On February 21 and 22, authorities from the municipal administration and medical staff dispersed the former staff as they began to congregate near their former workplace. Some were placed in the Phnom Penh Quarantine Centre.

The administration said in an announcement that health measures were enforced because the protesters were defiant and would not follow the guidelines aimed at protecting public health. Some of the demonstrators, it said, refused to provide specimens for testing, despite having been in contact with positive cases.

It added that the protesters were ‘arrogant’ in continuing to protest amid the ban, warning that they were causing traffic jams and were a threat to public order as well as public health.

“The Phnom Penh Municipal Hall was left with no choice but to take action by bringing 64 protesters to the Phnom Penh Quarantine Centre to be tested. We are continuing to search for those demonstrators who have not taken a second test and are carrying out contact tracing,” the announcement read.

From February 16-22, it said, 557 out of 879 protesters were tested twice with 74 returning positive results. The authorities are searching for the more than 300 individuals who have not come forward for testing.

The Labor Rights Supported Union of NagaWorld Employees issued a statement on February 22 saying that they only returned to protesting after all demonstrators had placed themselves in self-isolation for 10 days. They had also been tested on February 16, it claimed.

The union called on the authorities to stop preventing them from exercising their labour rights and allow them to return to their demonstrations near their former workplace.

“Despite difficulties and interruptions, we will not give up our protest, which is perfectly legal according to the law, Constitution, Convention on Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Assembly, and Convention on the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining,” it said.

The former NagaWorld employees have been protesting since December to demand the resolution of a labour dispute between them and the integrated resort. The protests have led to 11 arrests.