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Unionists arrested over Kampong Speu demonstration

Workers from Cerie garment factory protest at the Ministry of Labour on Monday.
Workers from Cerie garment factory protest at the Ministry of Labour on Monday. Hong Menea

Unionists arrested over Kampong Speu demonstration

Two union officials were arrested by plainclothes police in Kampong Speu province yesterday shortly after a protest at a garment factory over anti-union discrimination.

Workers at the Chinese-owned Cerie (Cambodia) factory in Samrong Tong district have been protesting for almost a month against the firing of three unionists who tried to organise workers at the factory.

Toch Srun – the would-be leader of the factory’s Free Trade Union (FTU) branch, and one of those fired – was arrested yesterday morning along with Yung Leap, a female FTU official from the national union who had come to help coordinate protests.

Srun’s wife, Thoeun Chana, who also works at Cerie, said she watched her husband and Leap get shoved into a police car by plainclothes officers shortly after the protest wrapped up.

“I was very scared to see it,” she said. “During the protests, we saw a group of men in a car look at us, but they did not do anything . . . But when we finished [protesting] they came over and arrested them both.”

Chana said the two have now been sent to court.

The FTU released a statement yesterday slamming the arrests for “seriously violating human rights”.

Mea Samnang, another of the three fired workers, said that nearly 100 Cerie workers have been protesting regularly in front of the factory to reinstate the three workers.

The Arbitration Council ruled on December 15 that the three be reinstated, but the ruling was ignored.

“We informed authorities about the protests, so why are police with no uniforms arresting us?” she said.

Deputy provincial police chief Ngem Soa defended the arrests but said the protest itself was “legal”.

“We detained them according to the court’s warrant, which was released because of a complaint from the company about the effects of the protests to their firm,” he said, declining to elaborate.

Cerie, which produces lingerie and nightwear, could not be reached.

Meanwhile, in a separate labour dispute involving anti-union dismissals, workers from the Starlight garment factory in Kandal province failed to come to a resolution with management yesterday.

The workers – who were attacked by guards and alleged hired thugs on Monday – will march to the Labour Ministry this morning and continue protesting until eight workers are reinstated, said Lor Sopheak, vice president of the Cambodian Labor Solidarity Union Federation.

Additional reporting by Lay Samean

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