Early last year, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Cambodia’s NagaWorld casino resort laid off around 365 employees. It also implemented changes to staff salaries and benefits. The result was a constant battle between the property and employees that culminated in a workers’ strike in December. Although the demonstration was, for the most part, peaceful, police have now arrested a number of workers for their participation in the activity.
Striking Workers Targeted by Police
Nine people have now been charged with inciting riots, causing social unrest and leading to the strike of around 2,000 NagaWorld workers. Police stated that six people were taken into custody and sent to Phnom Penh Municipal Court for violating articles 494 and 495 of the country’s Penal Code. Three others weren’t captured and were indicted absentia.
The Independent Democracy of Informal Economy Association (IDEA) stated that they were deeply disappointed in the actions of the authorities. The organization asserts that the authorities failed to perform their legal duties to ensure the safety of peaceful strikers, and demanded that those arrested to be released.
NagaWorld casino management claimed the employees had to be laid off to cut costs during the COVID-19 pandemic. The workers have refused to accept severance packages as part of a mutual separation program, claiming that the offer by the company was not adequate.
Legal, Not Legal
Phnom Penh City Hall repeatedly warned workers that their protests were illegal, a threat to social security, and claims striking leaders didn’t heed police instructions. They continued to protest outside NagaWorld for 13 more days.
IDEA stated that workers were exercising their fundamental right to strike as the last option. This is protected by the constitution and labor law. It stated that NagaWorld should return to the negotiating table and find a peaceful resolution.
NagaCorp, the largest gaming company in Cambodia, enjoys gaming exclusivity within a 200-kilometer zone surrounding Phnom Penh. Forbes magazine estimates that Chen Lip Keong, a Malaysian businessman, controls the company. His net worth is $6.3 billion.
IDEA urged all national, international and public organizations that work on human rights and labor and the Federation of International Trade Unions (FITU) to closely monitor the situation.