Cambodia Court Released Eight Women LRSU Activists on Bail

Cambodian authorities released eight of the trade union members detained in January and February this year after the country was condemned for human rights violations by the UN.

Ending Repression against LRSU Activists

The conflict between the Labour Rights Supported Union of Khmer Employees (LRSU) of NagaWorld and NagaCorp around the unlawful layoff of 365 union members as part of the cost-cutting measures the operator of the integrated casino resort in Phnom Penh had undertaken during the pandemic last year took another turn.

A total of eleven trade union leaders, eight women and three men, who were arrested in January and February and charged with incitement to commit a felony, sought release on bail from Cambodian court to be able to represent the 365 LRSU members who are still fighting to be reinstated, deeming the layoff unlawful.

The court released on bail the eight women on Monday and is expected to release the three men on Tuesday without dropping the charges. In the meantime, initial charges of incitement to felony were replaced by accusations of being part of a conspiracy.

Accused of Human Rights Violations

The court bail decision followed shortly after the government finally considered the severity of the conflict and after a meeting to discuss the matter, released around 200 of the protesters detained earlier in the year for their participation in the protests in front of the NagaWorld casino resort.

The conflict attracted the attention of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet who criticized the government for using “COVID-19 restrictions to further erode democratic and civic space, including as a pretext to break a lawful strike by casino workers.”

Pointing to the differences in applying the restriction measures to the strikers and the general public, Bachelet called on the authorities “to respect the right to peaceful assembly and engage in dialogue to address the strikers’ legitimate requests.”

Establishing an Alternative to the LRSU

And while the LRSU insists on good faith negotiations for the reinstatement of the union members who were unlawfully laid off or for the full separation pay for those accepting redundancy, the government continued with its controversial behavior, looking to avoid negotiations with the LRSU by setting up an alternative union.

The Union for Rights and Common Interests of NagaWorld Employees was established to act as a counterpart in the negotiation process with NagaWorld management.

The new trade union was set in record time and observers expect the union to receive Most Representative Status from the Ministry of Labour and deprive LRSU members of their collective bargaining rights.

The establishment of the alternative trade union is seen as a desperate attempt of the government to show the world that the dispute is over ahead of the international tripartite mission to the country scheduled for the end of March.

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