Staff fight for RFA cash

Khy Sovuthy / Khmer Times No Comments Share:
The two reporters have asked the US Embassy to intervene in their case. KT/Mai Vireak

Two former reporters for Radio Free Asia are fighting for about $28,000 each in employment benefits from the network after their bureau closed in September.

Sok Ratha, known as Ratha Visal at RFA, and Ouk Savbory spoke about their plight yesterday.

Mr Ratha said that after RFA closed, its manager told all reporters that the network would provide severance benefits but he had not received them.

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He had information from other RFA reporters that they got the money in October.

“All RFA reporters received employment benefits except me,” Mr Ratha said.

“So I requested the US Embassy intervene with the RFA in Washington DC to respond regarding my employment benefits.”

Mr Ratha said he worked for RFA for more than 13 years and had received an award in 2006 in America for excellence in journalism.

“I appeal to the US Embassy and RFA’s leaders to respond to the law and provide employment benefits like other staff,” he said.

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Mr Ratha said it was possible that the non-payment was because RFA was angry with him for producing a short video clip showing that RFA wanted to close the bureau in Phnom Penh and ask reporters to cover stories and send them to RFA in America secretly.

“I was afraid to break the law,” Mr Ratha said.

“If RFA does not respond to this problem, I will file a court complaint.”

Mr Ratha said RFA did not register at the Information Ministry, did not respect the labour law and dismissed many reporters.

Despite being closed, RFA still asked some reporters to collect information and send it to the US.

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He said two RFA reporters had been arrested for allegedly sending information to RFA in America secretly.

He has asked the embassy to mediate with the RFA board of directors to get his $28,000.

Ms Savbory said she worked for RFA from 1998 to 2015. She was sacked because she did not agree to work on stand-by in the provinces. Previously she received an expenses allowance of $600 per month over her salary to work in the provinces, but RFA cut it to $100.

“I requested benefits from RFA but they did not provide them to me, so I filed a complaint to the Phnom Penh Municipal Court,” she said.

Ms Savbory said that in February, the court ordered RFA pay her more than $28,000 but she had not received it.

“I ask RFA to respond on my compensation and I appeal to the US Embassy to push RFA to respect the labour law in Cambodia because America is democratic,” she said.

Ms Savbory added that after the municipal court issued the verdict, RFA representative Sum Sokry came to negotiate with her and said RFA would pay her about $15,000. She did not agree.

Her lawyer Tim Sopheap said RFA had taken the case to the Appeal Court. On November 14, the court invited both parties to a hearing but RFA did not take part and the hearing was put off until another time.

“If we get the final verdict and RFA does not want to pay, we can ask the court to force them,” said Ms Sopheap.

Rohit Mahajan, spokesman for RFA in America, could not be reached for comment. Neither could Mr Sokry.

A former RFA reporter said he and other reporters received employment benefits from RFA. He did not know why Mr Ratha did not receive the benefits.

US embassy spokesman David Josar said: “We can confirm the reporter has written the US Embassy about his situation. We would refer you to the RFA in Washington, DC, for further comment.”

Former RFA reporters Uon Chhin and Yeang Sothearin were arrested at the Marady Hotel in Phnom Penh last week.

Police confiscated several laptops and recording equipment.

They were charged with espionage and face 15 years in jail if found guilty.

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