Cambodia’s NagaWorld workers continue strike despite arrests and crackdown

Union organizers and striking workers at Cambodia’s largest casino and luxury resort have been arrested in recent crackdowns. The workers are demanding the reinstatement of those fired last year and negotiations on wages

January 04, 2022 by Peoples Dispatch
Striking workers hold a demonstration outside the NagaWorld hotel on December 29, 2021. Photo: LRSU

Despite two recent crackdowns against striking workers at the NagaWorld resort in Phnom Penh, hundreds continue their indefinite strike against arbitrary mass lay-offs. Dozens of strikers were either arrested or charged by the local police between New Year’s Eve and January 4.

According to reports, nine people were charged on Monday, January 3, with charges of “incitement to cause serious chaos to social security” by local authorities. Of these, three were charged in absentia and the other six had been taken into custody on Friday. The arrests were made in a late-night crackdown at the Labour Rights Supported Union of Khmer Employees of NagaWorld (LRSU) office, when nine people were detained by the police.

On Monday, responding to the call by the LRSU, hundreds of workers gathered again outside the NagaWorld premises to protest against the arrests and indictment of the workers. The police cracked down on the protesters and according to the union, 17 people were taken into custody, including a pregnant woman, from the site.

The police later told reporters that the demonstrators are set to be released before Wednesday, and also claimed to have released the pregnant woman on Monday. “Up to this hour, none of the workers’ demands has been solved but instead authorities have arrested unionists, activists and strikers,” said Chhim Sithar on Monday, LRSU president and one of the 9 charged last week.

In the latest, on Tuesday, January 4, Chhim Sithar was arrested by the police as she was on her way to attend another demonstration held by strikers. The two others charged in absentia on Monday were also taken into custody by Tuesday.

Despite the arrests and crackdown, workers continued their strike and demonstrations on Monday and Tuesday outside the NagaWorld hotel.

Organized by the LRSU, workers have been on an indefinite strike at NagaWorld since December 18 against arbitrary mass lay-offs in April last year. More than a thousand workers were laid off, hundreds of whom have rejected the terms and severance pay by the hotel management.

The striking workers have demanded that the hotel restore employment to 365 of those laid off last year. Among other demands, workers have also asked for the reversal of pay cuts imposed on them during the COVID-19 pandemic and also negotiations for fair wages for its nearly 2,000 workers.

In December, a Phnom Penh court ruled the strike to be illegal just two days before it started. The local administration also deemed the planned workers’ demonstration outside NagaWorld as against restrictive protocol and asked them to cancel it. Workers nevertheless held their demonstration for nearly two weeks.

The union has alleged that local authorities have been using the judicial process to clamp down on striking workers, and working in favor of the hotel management. Workers have also alleged that NagaWorld has refused to engage with the union in good faith.