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Union leader wins appeal

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Local worker representative Khem Mao (left) and food and service unionist Sar Mora at the Preah Sihanouk Provincial Court on July 21, 2017. Leonie Kijewski

Union leader wins appeal

The Appeal Court on Thursday overruled a Preah Sihanouk provincial court verdict that ordered a former union leader to pay $3,000 to Cambrew Ltd, the Sihanoukville-based brewers of Angkor Beer over a 2016 strike.

The appeal was heard on December 6. Both defendant and plaintiff were absent on Thursday when the appeal court read its verdict.

Democratic Workers Union of Angkor Beer Company president Khem Mao told the appeal judge, Nguon Im, earlier this month that he did not lead the strike held in front of the Cambrew brewery in Preah Sihanouk province on August 20, 2016.

’We protest peacefully’

Hong Sambath, Mao’s defence lawyer, said the strike was called to demand the company reinstate union leader, Lim Roth, who was dismissed. This meant Mao had nothing to do with organising the industrial action, he had merely joined the strike, he said.

“I think the appeal court overturning the ruling ordering me to pay $3,000 in compensation is fair because the company should not have filed a lawsuit against me just because I participated in a strike,” Mao told The Post on Thursday.

He told the trial judge that he did not have the means to pay $3,000 in compensation as he was a brewery worker.

Mao said the company wrongly believed him to be a member of the Cambodian Food and Service Workers Federation, led by Sar Mora.

The company filed the lawsuit after the strike affected the company’s production and demanded Mora and Mao pay $60,000 in compensation.

Preah Sihanouk provincial court ruled that Mora had not taken part in the strike, but that Mao had, and ordered him to pay $3,000. The provincial court verdict was handed down in July last year.

Collective Union of Movement of Workers (CUMW) president Pav Sina said he believed that human rights group members, union leaders and activists do not normally receive justice from the court system.

“Union leaders and representatives protest peacefully to stop companies from violating the law and worker rights, but then they are hit with criminal cases."

“People generally think it is a waste of time to appeal to the upper [Appeal and Supreme] courts because they think they will just uphold the earlier ruling. [But this case shows they] can make different decisions in accordance with their judgement.”

Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union (C.CAWDU) president Ath Thorn said it was positive that the Appeal Court had overturned the provincial court ruling.

Thorn was given a two-and-a-half year suspended sentence by Phnom Penh Municipal Court for his role in the 2013 Veng Sreng Boulevard protests.

On Tuesday Kampong Speu provincial court sentenced nine members of C.CAWDU to a year in prison each and to pay a total of 36 million riel ($9,000) in compensation over a protest.