Phnom Penh municipal police arrested nine people on December 31 for holding an unauthorised demonstration in front of the local integrated resort NagaWorld which they said affected security, public order and social safety.
The Independent Democracy of Informal Economy Association (IDEA) has called on police to administer justice in a neutral manner by resolving the case without court charges and releasing those arrested.
On the morning of December 31, the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training called on the protesters to stop demonstrating immediately and return to the joint labour dispute resolution process that had been underway, in the spirit and letter of Articles 302 to 317 of the labour law and prakas 317 on joint labour dispute resolution procedures.
In a press release on January 1, the municipal police confirmed that they arrested the nine individuals at 7pm on December 31.
They said that before the arrest, the municipal administration repeatedly called on them to stop their illegal protests in the interests of maintaining security, public order and social security, but the leaders had not heeded the police’s instructions and continued to protest for another 13 days.
“The arrest of these nine individuals is in accordance with Articles 194 and 195 of the Criminal Code. Currently, the police are following the procedures according to the law,” the press release said.
However, on January 1, IDEA issued a statement co-signed by union leaders, negotiators and activists condemning the arrest the evening prior.
Nearly 2,000 NagaWorld workers have been on strike, with groups of them demonstrating in front of the resort and demanding the reinstatement of 365 union leaders and workers’ delegates who were laid off – with the company claiming it was due to the pandemic-related economic downturn – and then offered severance packages, which they have so far largely declined.
The statement added that IDEA supported the exercise of the fundamental rights of the employees of NagaWorld to peacefully go on strike and that these rights were guaranteed by the Constitution, labour law, the Law on Trade Unions and other laws governing the activities of unions registered with the labour ministry.
“We are deeply disappointed and condemn the actions of the authorities responsible who have failed to carry out their roles and fulfil their duties under the law to protect the security of peaceful strikers. [The workers on strike] have exercised this fundamental right of all trade unions as their last option. These rights are guaranteed by law. We urge [NagaWorld] to return to the negotiating table and find a peaceful solution,” IDEA said.
IDEA called on the police to be professional, neutral and impartial in carrying out their roles in the process of resolving the labour dispute and urged the striking workers’ immediate release from detention.
It also called on all public, national and international organisations working on human and labour rights and the Federation of International Trade Unions to closely monitor the case.