More arrests in Cambodia’s NagaWorld Casino strike

Detained women say they were assaulted by authorities but that they remain defiant.
By RFA’s Khmer Service
2022.03.22
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More arrests in Cambodia’s NagaWorld Casino strike A police officer pulls the hair of a striking NagaWorld Casino worker in Phnom Penh, Cambodia in this file photo.
Citizen Journalist

Authorities in Phnom Penh again rounded up more than 100 striking NagaWorld Casino workers Tuesday, in the latest in a series of brutal mass arrests since the strike started more than three months ago. 

Hundreds of security forces violently pushed about 140 striking workers onto buses as they attempted to demonstrate near the casino to demand it reinstate laid-off workers and recognize their union.

“The authorities rushed in with anger,” An SreyPe, who was among the protesters, told RFA’s Khmer Service. “They assaulted and cursed the women among us, but our demands continue to be the same. We will protest until we have a solution.” 

An SreyPe said she was injured when the authorities pushed her against the bus and her leg was caught in the door. They also sexually assaulted her in the process, she said, but did not elaborate.

Another protester said that the authorities used excessive force and confirmed they were specifically targeting women.

“Their punches are not meant to prevent a protest. They intended to hurt us,” said Srey No. Authorities hit her in the face during the crackdown and she suffered black eyes. “I am sad. We are only fighting for our livelihoods.”

Thousands of NagaWorld workers walked off their jobs in mid-December, demanding higher wages and the reinstatement of eight jailed union leaders, three other jailed workers and 365 others they say were unjustly fired from the hotel and casino, which is owned by a Hong Kong-based company believed to have connections to family members of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Cambodian authorities have called the strike “illegal” and alleged that it is supported by foreign donors as a plot to topple the government. But a series of mass arrests in recent weeks have been attributed to alleged violations of pandemic health regulations in Cambodia’s capital. Activists said the charges were trumped up to break up the strike.

The eight union leaders have since been released on bail but still face charges.

Authorities on Tuesday forced the 140 workers into buses around 2 p.m. and drove them around Cambodia’s capital, preventing them from leaving the buses. The workers were finally released around 6 p.m. on the outskirts of the city.

In previous arrests, the strikers were taken to quarantine facilities in Phnom Penh or its suburbs.

RFA was unable to reach Phnom Penh police spokesman San Sok Seiha for comment Tuesday.

The workers are continuing to protest because there has been no solution, Am Sam Ath of the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights told RFA. 

“Our concern is that because there is no solution, the workers will continue their protest and more arrests will be made,” he said. 

The union and the casino will meet Wednesday for talks. The Ministry of Labor urged parties to file complaints to the court if there is no solution. 

Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Eugene Whong.

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