The leader of Cambodia’s largest independent garment union is due to appear in court this afternoon for a third round of pretrial questioning over a case stemming from a strike that ended more than six months ago.
Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union (C.CAWDU) president Ath Thorn, who is appealing bail requirements that prevent him from holding public gatherings, remains unsure whether the complaint of incitement filed by a security guard at SL Garment Processing will make it to trial.
“Based on the case, I’m not involved,” said Thorn, who was charged in April. Questioning is to begin at 3pm.
Depending on the investigating judge and prosecutors’ decision, Thorn and union activist Pav Phanna could both stand trial for inciting violence during a nearly four-month-long strike involving thousands of workers. At the height of the strike, police opened fire with live ammunition during a riot on November 12, killing a street food vendor.
SL security guard Sath Sophai filed a court complaint against Thorn and Phanna, saying he was injured during the course of the strike.
In addition to the $25,000 paid to the court last month and the stipulation he may not host gatherings, Thorn’s bail agreement requires he stay away from SL. Thorn and attorney Kim Socheat have yet to hear from the appellate court about the appeal they filed in April.
Socheat has told the Post that he believes SL is behind the lawsuit.
In an interview yesterday, SL executive director Wong Hon Ming denied any involvement on the part of the company. He said SL is not providing Sophai with legal representation. Sophai, Hon Ming said, returned to his home province after SL paid him an undisclosed amount of money.
The lawsuit is merely a deterrent for other union leaders to engage in large-scale industrial action, said Moeun Tola, head of the labour program at the Community Legal Education Center.
“They use the court system to intimidate,” he said.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY ANNIE LEE AND RAINBOW LI