Union Leader Chhim Sithar Jailed for Two Years

Trade union leader Chhim Sithar was handed a two-year prison sentence for heading peaceful protests against NagaWorld’s decision to lay off workers - mainly union members - during the pandemic
Trade union leader Chhim Sithar appears for her verdict at Phnom Penh Municipal Court, May 25, 2023. Kiripost/Siv Channa
Trade union leader Chhim Sithar appears for her verdict at Phnom Penh Municipal Court, May 25, 2023. Kiripost/Siv Channa

Trade union leader, Chhim Sithar, has been sentenced to two years in prison for heading a protest against NagaWorld calling for workers laid off during Covid-19 to be reinstated.

Five other union members from the Labour Rights Supported Union of Khmer Employees of NagaWorld (LRSU), Chhim Sokhorn, Hay Sopheap, Kleang Soben, Sun Srey Pich, and Touch Sereymeas, were given 18-month court monitoring orders.

While Sok Narith, Sok Kongkea, and Ry Sovandy were dealt one-year suspended jail sentences.

Sithar was immediately detained upon receiving her sentence, which relates to the union’s ongoing peaceful strike against NagaWorld’s decision to lay off staff during the pandemic.

Sithar and the other union members were arrested and imprisoned in December and January 2022. They were bailed in March that year before Sithar was re-arrested and imprisoned on November 26, 2022 for allegedly violating judicial supervision conditions.

A statement from Lichado said this was “despite the fact that neither she nor her lawyers were ever informed of any conditions”.

“LRSU members have been on strike since December 2021 following mass layoffs at the NagaWorld casino, which included LRSU’s entire leadership and a significant number of its members,” the statement added.

“Members have faced judicial harassment, physical attacks, and sexual assaults by authorities during the course of their peaceful strike.”

This has prompted calls for the convictions to be overturned and Sithar to be “immediately released”.

David Kode, Advocacy and Campaigns Lead at CIVICUS, said, “We call on the Cambodian authorities to overturn the flawed two-year conviction of trade union leader and human rights defender Chhim Sithar today for incitement. Organizing a strike should never be a crime, and this verdict is a clear abuse of the judicial system.

“The charges brought against her are in retaliation for her continued activism, and this unjust verdict will intimidate and stifle the efforts of those advocating for workers’ rights. It is the latest blow to civic freedoms in the country which is rated “repressed” by the CIVICUS Monitor. The Cambodian government must respect the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.”