Posted on: March 15, 2022, 07:49h. 

Last updated on: March 15, 2022, 05:49h.

Eight more union leaders associated with Cambodian casino NagaWorld’s striking workers are now free. They are part of a group of more than 200 police have arrested since the strike began last December.

NagaWorld strikers
NagaWorld strikers and union representatives continue staging their protests. A court released eight reps on Monday, but officials arrested another 162 individuals. (Image: Radio Free Asia)

Since last December, employees at Cambodia’s NagaWorld casino have led a strike against the property. They assert that casino executives are treating them unfairly and that layoffs early last year wrongly targeted employees tied to unions.

But the stand-off between NagaWorld and its employees involved in a months-long strike could be coming to an end. That’s the hope of the employees and union representatives after a court-approved release of eight union representatives on Monday.

A Phnom Penh court now ordered the release of eight leaders of the Labor Rights Supported Union of Khmer Employees this week, according to Radio Free Asia. The government accused the workers’ unions of conspiring to produce a riot and upset the government. This is despite the fact that there have not been any significant outbursts from the striking employees.

NagaWorld Nightmare Continues

The decision contradicts and reverses another court’s actions from last week. An appellate court ordered the individuals held because the investigation into the union’s actions is still taking place.

We will not accept any condition that leads to a dissolution of the union or only allows one party, the NagaWorld company, to win in this dispute,” stated union representative Ry Sovandy after her release.

The individuals suffered 74 days in detainment for their actions, during which officials subjected them to violence and inhumane conditions. Their release came after all eight sent individual letters to Minister of Labor and Vocational Training Ith Sam Heng, requesting his intervention. However, it isn’t clear that the release was the direct result of his involvement.

The Cambodian government is under pressure to embrace the concept of human rights. It has responded by saying that it is taking action. But its words ring hollow in an election year.

Although the strikes have been peaceful, officials of the repressive government decided that the strikers were a threat to national security. They rounded up the supposed offenders and locked them away. It took intervention from the United Nations to have 200 released a few days ago.

Conflict Not Ending Quickly

Initially, the release of the eight union leaders seemed to be a sign that perhaps the fight between employees and NagaWorld was ending. Strikers saw a court granting bail after another court refused to intervene as a positive step forward. However, that may not be the case.

Just as the eight representatives were walking free, Cambodia was rounding up another 162 NagaWorld workers. The detained individuals were sent to a COVID-19 quarantine center, possibly under the same ruse officials used last time.

In previous arrests, instead of targeting employees for inciting civil unrest, officials charged them with breaking COVID-19 policies. This was in spite of the fact that all were wearing masks and had received their COVID-19 shots.

Last week, Interior Minister Sar Kheng met with the Ministry of Labor, the Ministry of Justice, and the Ministry of Health. The goal was reportedly to find a way to resolve the situation. However, six days later, the strike continues. As such, either the politicians were bluffing or can’t figure out how to deal with human rights.