Authorities reject calls for release of detained NagaWorld employees

NagaWorld employees went on strike on December 18 2021.
NagaWorld employees went on strike on December 18 2021.

The Cambodian ministry of justice has refused to release nine former NagaWorld employees charged with “incitement to cause social chaos.”

Cambodia.- In a new chapter in the NagaWorld labour dispute, the Cambodian ministry of justice and the Cambodian Human Rights Committee have rejected calls for the release of nine former NagaWorld employees. Those detained stand charged with “incitement to cause social chaos”.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) had issued a call on March 14 urging for their “immediate and unconditional” release. It believes labour rights advocates and union leaders have been targeted by Cambodian authorities in violation of the criminal justice system.

The statement followed a Phnom Penh Municipal Court hearing earlier that day for Chhim Sithar, the leader of the Labour Rights Supported Union of Khmer Employees (LRSU) at NagaWorld, and the eight co-accused. Sithar was arrested on January 4, 2022, on charges of “incitement to commit a felony” under articles 494 and 495 of the Criminal Code.

According to HRW’s Asia representative Phil Robertson, the former NagaWorld employees are facing increased pressure from Cambodian authorities as the country’s civil society space narrows ahead of the July parliamentary election. 

However, Chin Malin, the vice-chairman of CHRC and spokesman for the justice ministry, said HRW’s statement was biased and had no basis, stating that the case follows standard legal proceedings in which strong testimony and solid evidence must be presented to discharge the accused. 

Malin said he believes the accused crossed a line in labour dispute resolution mechanisms and committed crimes that must be resolved through the judiciary, which follows national and international human rights conventions.

However, Cambodian Labour Confederation (CLC) president Ath Thorn says Sithar’s arrest is not related to any criminal offences. He urged authorities to release Sithar to avoid criticism from the population and international organisations, which could threaten the wider labour movement. 

See also: After 14 months, the NagaWorld labour dispute remains unresolved

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