The ITUC Condemned the Prison Terms for Cambodian Trade Union Leaders

ACVCSCIASIA.ORG, JAKARTA – The ITUC and the IUF condemn the prison sentences for the leaders of the Labor Rights Supported Union (LRSU) of Khmer Employees of NagaWorld.

LRSU President Chhim Sithar is among the leaders found guilty of ‘incitement to commit a felony’ for engaging in a peaceful strike in opposition to union busting at NagaWorld casino in Phnom Penh. A total of nine LRSU leaders were found guilty in a court hearing today, On 25 May 2023. Sithar was sentenced to 2 years in prison, eight months of which she has already served. Five others were given sentences of 1 year, and 3 were given one-year suspended sentences.

The workers at NagaWorld casino acted in April 2021 after the company used the economic impacts of Covid-19 as an excuse to sack 1,329 workers. 1,100 of these were LRSU members, including the union’s entire leadership.

During the following strike, the workers followed all legal procedures and made many attempts to negotiate in good faith with the company.

ITUC Acting General Secretary Luc Triangle said: “We call on NagaCorp to use it considerable influence to persuade the government of Cambodia to change course immediately, to release Sister Sithar and to drop all charges against her and the other LRSU leaders.

“NagaCorp must reinstate the terminated workers and negotiate in good faith with the union. Justice and social dialogue is the only way forward for the company.”

Since the strike:

  • By January 2022, 29 striking workers were arrested, with nine charged.
  • Since February 2022, Cambodian authorities have become more hostile toward the strikers, with attacks causing serious injuries such as a miscarriage, broken bones and facial injuries.
  • On 3 April 2022, Chhim Sithar and other LRSU leaders received a death threat. The LRSU alerted the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and other embassies about the threat.
  • On 26 November 2022, Chhim Sithar was arrested at the Phnom Penh airport after returning from the ITUC Congress in Melbourne, Australia. Authorities claimed she had breached her bail conditions by traveling abroad and she was jailed. However, she had never been shown her bail conditions and had previously travelled to abroad without incident.

In March 2023, the ILO issued a formal decision urging the Government of Cambodia to ensure that NagaCorp respect labour and trade union rights, after the IUF filed a complaint with the ILO’s Committee on Freedom of Association for violations of ILO Conventions 87 and 98.

In April 2023, the IUF also filed OECD complaints against NagaCorp’s key bondholders for their failure to conduct due diligence under the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. (source:ITUC)

To read the joint ITUC/IUF statement: https://www.ituc-csi.org/iuf-ituc-statement-cambodia

Visit the IUF NagaWorld campaign page: https://www.iuf.org/campaigns/nagaworld/