Striking Cambodian workers say they are being held in deplorable conditions

Another 51 workers were detained Wednesday as authorities move to break up the protest against NagaWorld Casino.
2022.02.23
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Detained NagaWorld Casino workers sit and sleep on the ground at a quarantine facility on the outskirts of Cambodia's capital Phnom Penh, Feb. 23, 2022.
Photo courtesy of a detained worker

Workers detained for striking against the NagaWorld Casino in Phnom Penh said they are being held in squalid conditions and must agree to stop gathering in protest as a condition of their release.

A copy of a document Cambodian authorities are pressuring the detained workers to sign was shared with RFA. It says that if the workers continue their “illegal activities,” government officials will take additional administrative and legal measures against them, without exception.

“They tried to force me to sign the document, [but] I didn’t sign it because I didn’t do anything wrong,” said worker Meach Srey Oun. “It is very unjust.”

Meach Srey Oun was one of 51 striking workers detained by City Hall officials on Wednesday. The workers, who are striking against the NagaWorld Casino, were pushed and dragged onto buses by officials from City Hall at about 2 p.m., the workers said.

The workers said they are forced to sleep on the dirty ground and do not have access to clean water but so far have refused to sign the document, despite pressure from authorities.

Thousands of NagaWorld employees walked off their jobs in mid-December, demanding higher wages and the reinstatement of eight jailed union leaders and nearly 370 others they said were unjustly fired from the casino, which is owned by a company based in Hong Kong.

Cambodian authorities said the strike is illegal and allege that it was supported by foreign donors as a plot to topple the government. Phnom Penh City Hall later ordered the workers to stop the strike to protect, it said, against the spread of the coronavirus.

That order was followed by a number of detentions and labor activists see the City Hall directive as a means of breaking up the strike. Authorities detained more than 100 striking workers on Monday and Tuesday for allegedly violating the COVID-19 protocols and said they would have to pay heavy fines to be released.

Siek Kanha is one of the 51 workers detained Wednesday who add to the total detained. She said four employees have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus and were taken to a hospital. She also said that conditions at the holding center are miserable.

“This is an abandoned place, [and] there is no water,” she told RFA. “I haven’t gotten a chance to take a shower.”

Siek Kanha said the 51 workers have been kept apart from another 39 casino workers who remain detained from previous roundups.

The group she is in was not given food until 8 p.m., and authorities didn’t allow their family members to deliver clean clothes to them, she added.

“I don’t have the money to pay the fine,” she said, adding that she and others have twice tested negative for COVID. “We don’t have jobs now.”

RFA could not reach City Hall officials for contact.

Reported by RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

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