A Cambodian executive who led a long-running casino crackdown has received a 2-year prison sentence

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — The head of a labor union that led a crackdown on Cambodia’s largest casino was sentenced Thursday to two years in prison for inciting illegal activities, while eight other members of the union received lesser terms that do not include prison terms. ‘prison.

Chhim Sithar, president of the Labor Rights Supported Union of Khmer Employees of NagaWorld, has been leading a strike that began in December 2021 to protest mass layoffs and contract violations at the NagaWorld casino in the capital Phnom Penh. He was found guilty of leading protests in January 2022 of about 400 other laid-off workers who wanted to be rehired.

NagaWorld in late 2021 laid off 373 employees due to financial difficulties corona virus plague.

NagaWorld is owned by a company controlled by the family of Malaysian billionaire Chen Lip Keong. His company received its casino license in 1994 and the site is now a hotel-casino resort.

Trade union activities are rare in Cambodia but often take place in remote factories or factories in other provinces. The demonstration by NagaWorld workers in the capital was at its height and led the police to resort to violence at times.

Judge Soeung Chakriya of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court sentenced the five accused Chhim Sithar in the same case to one and a half years in prison each, and granted them freedom as long as they have to appear before the court. when the court or other authorities are called. Three other defendants received a one-year suspended sentence.

Chhim Sithar, dressed in an orange prison uniform, looked healthy and relaxed before the verdict. When asked about the case, he told The Associated Press, “Yes, I know that the court will judge and sentence me, and I will appeal.”

“I will appeal because I cannot accept this decision and I want foreign countries to know about our war,” he said.

Thursday’s decision came as Cambodia prepares for a military chief election in July he will return to the rule of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party of Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has led the country for 38 years with no tolerance for dissent.

The opposition Candlelight Party, which is the only opposition party to the ruling party, is complaining that it cannot contest the elections on technical grounds that it has not submitted the necessary documents.

On Monday, three members of a Cambodian land rights organization and a researcher were charged with conspiracy against the government and incitement to sedition after the government accused them of trying to incite unrest by teaching farmers about the class gap between rich and poor. . If convicted of both charges, he could face up to 12 years in prison.

Hun Sen’s government carried out a similar attack on the opposition and dissidents ahead of the 2019 general election.

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the Australian Council of Trade Unions jointly called for the sanctions to be lifted and for Chhim Sithar to be released.

“The protest against Mr. Chhim Sithar and the others is a clear attack on the organizations and workers who are fighting for their fundamental rights,” said Montse Ferrer, Amnesty International’s deputy director of research. “This decision is a reminder that the Cambodian government prefers to cooperate with organizations instead of protecting the rights of its people.”

The sacked NagaWorld workers continue to demonstrate every week in support of their strike, according to Am Sam Ath, head of the civil rights organization Licadho.

The Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training said last December that 249 laid-off workers had received compensation by complying with labor laws and giving up their demands, but 124 are still refusing to be dismissed, and the ministry will continue to negotiate with them.


Peck reported from Bangkok.

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