May 6, 2024 3 min read


Cambodia Upholds Prison Sentence for Casino Worker Leader

The COVID-19 pandemic has left many casino workers in Cambodia out of a job, prompting widespread protests against the alleged injustice perpetrated on casino staff

Cambodia’s Supreme Court has not shown leniency in the case of a labor union leader who organized one of the longest-running strikes against the country’s biggest casino, with the detainee, Chhim Sithar, alleging that NagaWorld laid off workers illegally and attempted to bust the union’s efforts to fight back.

No Reprieve for Determined Union Labor Leader

The Supreme Court found Sithar, president of the Labor Right Supports Union of Khmer Employees of NagaWorld, to have acted against the law, upholding his two-year prison sentence originally meted out in May 2023. Sithar was brought up on charges of incitement to commit a felony, and the court has now upheld the sentence, meaning that Sithar will have to serve out his sentence.

Sithar was the driving force behind the protests that erupted in December 2021, protesting mass layoffs at the NagaWorld Casino in the country’s capital, Phnom Penh and was finally arrested in January 2022, after refusing to back down and tell union workers to go home. NagaCorp has since recovered, demonstrating strong growth.

NagaWorld fired 373 employees as the casino faced the financial pinch of the pandemic and lack of tourists, which significantly depressed operational results and brought business to a standstill. Despite Sithar’s arrest, though, many of the fired workers continue to rally and protest both her incarceration and sentence, as well as the way NagaWorld and Cambodia’s legal system have treated the case.

Yet, some have opted out of settlements with the company, and some 200 ex-workers have already accepted settlements. Yet, others have not been so lucky. Sithar may have been dubbed a “ringleader” by the court, but she is not alone, as eight of her fellow union workers have also been handed down 18-month prison sentences as well.

Illegal Detention and Human Rights Champion

Sithar though is unlikely to be released earlier. She will end her sentence term later this year. She is also the recipient of the US Department of State Human Rights Defender Award and this distinction comes at a time when the United States has warned that doing business in Cambodia could pose significant risk to investors, alleging that corruption ran deep in the state.

Cambodia has vehemently denied these accusations.  Yet, the fate of Sithar is no way to assuage concerns about underhand practices that favor powerful businesses over citizens. NagaWorld began operations in 1994 and the casino is owned by the powerful Malaysian billionaire Chen Lip Keong and his family.


Jerome is a welcome new addition to the Gambling News team, bringing years of journalistic experience within the iGaming sector. His interest in the industry begun after he graduated from college where he played in regular local poker tournaments which eventually lead to exposure towards the growing popularity of online poker and casino rooms. Jerome now puts all the knowledge he's accrued to fuel his passion for journalism, providing our team with the latest scoops online.

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