15 arrested during strike by casino workers in Cambodian capital – The Diplomat

ASEAN Beat | Politics | South East Asia

The government and its social media agents have described the strike as a foreign-led conspiracy.

The NagaWorld hotel and entertainment complex in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Credit: Depositphotos

Cambodian police yesterday arrested 15 workers taking part in a weeks-long strike against massive layoffs at the country’s largest casino in the capital Phnom Penh. The strike outside the reflective gold building of the NagaWorld hotel and entertainment complex has drawn hundreds of workers since December 18, calling for the reinstatement of 365 workers laid off in April.

Last year, Hong Kong-listed NagaCorp began the process of layoff of 1,329 employees, which she said was part of a “mutual separation plan” designed to shore up her profits amid the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Reuters.

The Labor Rights Supported NagaWorld Employees Union (LRSU) and its leader Chhim Sithar, which called a strike after months of negotiations failing to reach a resolution, say many of those who have been dismissed were union members and were not properly compensated. Yesterday’s action also called for the release of nine people arrested during the January 1 strike, who have has since been charged with “incentive to wreak havoc on social security”.

Chhim Sithar told Radio Free Asia yesterday that Cambodian authorities “were using justice to arrest union leaders after accusing them of carrying out illegal strikes and inciting workers” and called on NagaCorp to reopen negotiations with workers.

Since being declared illegal by a Cambodian court in mid-December, the strike has met concerted opposition from the government and its various social media satraps and cheerleaders. In the days following the start of the strike last month, anonymous Facebook groups started making questionable claims that Sithar and the LRSU had been trained by foreigners to lead the strike against NagaWorld.

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The allegations were then covered by the government aligned media Fresh News, which arrived this week at publish an infomercial content promoting NagaCorp’s corporate social responsibility “efforts”, while the Khmer Times favoring the CPP took such a strong pro-management position on the strike. Heng Sour, spokesperson for the Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training, even went to on file as saying that pregnant women were forced to participate in the strike as part of a “color revolution tactic”.

Reference to a “color revolution”, a foreign-led mass protest campaign designed to overthrow the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), has become a staple of Cambodian government discourse in recent years. : a club with which to beat all forms of opposition.

This is in part because Cambodian opposition parties and civil society groups have always enjoyed moral and material support from foreign governments and international NGOs – a legacy of the multinational effort to build peace. democracy initiated by a United Nations peacekeeping mission in the early 1990s – and so on. is an advantage for the CPP by anathematizing all connections between foreigners and Cambodians.

The specter of the “color revolution” has been used to justify the ongoing treason trial against Kem Sokha, the chairman of the now banned Cambodia National Rescue Party, the party’s ban in 2017, and a series of actions repressive measures against the country’s civil society. and independent press. Its emergence in the context of a labor dispute also reflects the paranoia of the ruling elite over any potential mobilization of the country’s new industrial working class, which has historically benefited from close ties to the Cambodian opposition.

The arrests of NagaWorld, and the official hostile reaction to the strike in general, suggest that after eliminating most formal sources of opposition, the government will continue to portray any mass social movement, whether for democratic rights or better working conditions, such as a project of foreign interests.

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