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Unionists link arrests to ‘threatening’ trend

Garment workers burn a log outside the Cerie (Cambodia) factory in Kampong Speu’s Samrong Tong district earlier this month during a protest that prompted the arrest of two union officials. Photo supplied
Garment workers burn a log outside the Cerie (Cambodia) factory in Kampong Speu’s Samrong Tong district earlier this month during a protest that prompted the arrest of two union officials. Photo supplied

Unionists link arrests to ‘threatening’ trend

The Free Trade Union has sent another request pleading with the government to release two of its members arrested earlier this month, linking the pair to a recent spate of arrests and charges against unionists across the Kingdom.

On Tuesday, the FTU sent a letter to the Labour Ministry and the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia calling for the release on bail of two FTU unionists arrested on February 2 for alleged incitement at the Cerie garment factory in Kampong Speu province.

The letter comes after the FTU appealed for their release last Thursday, but in Tuesday’s letter, FTU president Chea Mony also addressed growing threats to union leaders in Cambodia.

“It seems like union leaders are being threatened to stop protests, but workers really need support from unions to defend them,” it read.

Pav Sina, president of the Collective Union of Movement of Workers, said that such anti-union activity had been a clear trend since the start of the year.

Five CUMW unionists were arrested after being beaten by alleged hired thugs during a strike at the Agile Sweater factory in Kampong Speu on January 12.

Although the five were released on bail days later, the case is ongoing, and Sina himself will have to report to the court on February 29 for questioning.

Meanwhile, four prominent union leaders were charged on Monday after another alleged anti-union beatdown of protesting former Capitol Bus drivers over the weekend.

“Recently, union leaders and activists who tried to protect workers and protested at garment factories or at the Capitol Bus office have been arrested or charged. We are very worried,” Sina said.

“They try to protect protesters [from attacks] … but then they are arrested and charged at the court.”

While GMAC spokesman Ken Loo said his association had unsuccessfully tried to negotiate a peaceful resolution to the FTU’s dispute with Cerie, he dismissed any talk that unionists were under threat in general in Cambodia.

“If there is such alleged rampant violation of freedom of association and union leaders [are being] harassed, murdered, martyred, beaten up, bullied or whatever, why do we have so many people who want to be union [leaders] every day?” he asked.

“We have so many heroes or martyrs in Cambodia? Really? I find it hard to believe.”

Labour Ministry spokesman Heng Sour could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Additional reporting by Charles Rollet

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