Khmer Times/Mom Kunthear Thursday, 07 July 2016 1013 views

Kampot Police Arrest Unionists

Three unionists were arrested on Tuesday after being accused of incitement and illegally striking at the Cambo T.D.G. factory in Kampot province’s Kampong Trach district.
 

The leader of the union has condemned the arrests and threatened to hold an even larger protest demanding their release.
 

Provincial police chief Mao Chanmathurith said yesterday that the three union officials were being held at the police station and will be sent to court today.  
 

“We cannot release them. We will send them to the court tomorrow. They are at fault, and that’s why we arrested them. We would not arrest someone who is not guilty,” he said.
 

Mr. Chanmathurith told reporters the three unionists told employees of the factory not to come to work and blocked the entrance to the factory.
 

“We arrested only the union officials. We did not arrest the workers,” Mr. Chanmathurith said. “After we arrested the unionists, the workers returned to work and the rest will be back to work tomorrow as normal.”
 

But Din Sam Ath, president of the Cambodian Federation of Labour Unions (CFLU), had a much different take on the situation and forecast something much different than business as usual for the factory.
 

His deputy secretary-general, Yon Sambo, was arrested on Tuesday afternoon while he was eating lunch. Police claimed he had “incited” workers to strike.  
 

Mr. Sam Ath said Sok Syden, an official at the Khmer Workers Union Federation, was one of the other unionists arrested. He did not know the name of the third official.  
 

“I am asking the company to drop the complaint against my staff while they are detained at the provincial police station,” he said. “I do not think my staff did anything wrong as the company accused them. The workers sent a request letter to my union asking for help after the company fired 21 workers for forming a union.”
 

More than 400 workers at Cambo T.D.G. factory have been protesting since June 24, demanding the reinstatement of 21 workers who were fired after starting their own union.
 

A National Police report said the company and the provincial governor sued the three unionists, claiming they were urging employees of the factory to protest.
 

“After coordinating with the provincial labor department, company representatives and workers to end the strike, the union officials still led the worker strikes by bringing tables, chairs and other staff to block the company entrance. They did not allow trucks to take products in and out of the factory and told employees not to go to work either,” the report said.
 

Mr. Sam Ath rejected all the accusations in the report, saying workers at the factory requested assistance from his union. His officials did not “incite workers” and were only trying to help, he added.
 

“We have requested letters from workers which have 11 points that they are demanding from the company. But the most important point is that they want the company to reinstate the 21 workers,” he said.
 

“My staff did not order workers to block the road or strike. The workers did it by themselves because they were so angry at the factory,” Mr. Sam Ath said. “The police arrested my staff while they ate lunch at a restaurant, not at the factory. So this is wrong.”
 

Mr. Sam Ath said another four people, three unionists and one employee of the factory, were arrested at 5pm on Tuesday. The factory employee was released at 7pm.
 

“So three more union officials were arrested, but I do not know the identity of the other two union officials yet,” he said. “We are trying to secure their release, so the workers and unionists will gather in front of the provincial police station tomorrow [Thursday] if the unionists are not released today.”
 

Ung Por Heng, the Kampot provincial Labor Department director, declined to comment yesterday.

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