Cambodia: HRDs served with warrants from the courts
September 19, 2011, 7:54 pm
Human rights defenders and labour activists, Mr Ath Thorn, Ms Morm Nhim and Mr Tola Moeun, are believed to be among a group of 9 persons who are due to be served with warrants from the courts following strike actions taken by thousands of Cambodian garment workers who are calling for higher wages.
Ath Thorn is the President of the Cambodian Labour Confederation (CLC), Morm Nhim is the President of the Cambodian National Confederation (CNC) and Tola Moeun is the head of the Labour Programme at the Community Legal and Education Training Centre Â– CLEC.
On 15 September 2010 the Prime Minister Hun Sen agreed to requests from Government officials from the Ministry of Social Affairs, Labour, Vocational Training and Youth Rehabilitation (MoSalvy) to file law suits against union leaders and labour activists for inciting garment workers to strike. They also appealed to police officials to crackdown on the strikes. The strike action was planned between 13 Â– 18 September but a temporary cessation of the strike was declared following an invitation to the CLC and CNC to attend a negotiation meeting at the MoSalvy on 27 September.
Previously, on 23 July 2010, the Secretary of State of the Ministry of Labour, Mr Oum Mean, stated publicly that Ath Thorn would face criminal proceedings if he continued to oppose the minimum wage decision. In mid-August Ath Thorn received a warning from a friend who advised him not to go out at night, that the government officials and employers were accusing him of causing trouble.
On 17 August an assistant of the union leader received a suspicious phonecall during which the unidentified caller asked questions about Ath Thorn’s activities and actions relating to wages for garment workers. Around the same date Tola Moeun was told by a friend with links to the employer organisations that union leaders and others publicly supporting the campaign were likely to be charged with incitement. On 28 August a member of CLC received an phonecall from an anonymous caller who said “Please tell all your supervisors to not be strong. Be careful”.
Front Line is extremely concerned that union leaders and labour activists, including Ath Thorn, Morm Nhim and Tola Moeun, may face criminal proceedings directly as a result of their legitimate activities in defence of the rights of workers in Cambodia. In light of the killings of three former Presidents of the Free Trade Union of Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia (FTUWKC) – Hy Vuthy in 2007 and both Chea Vichea and Ros Sovannareth in 2004 Â– Front Line is extremely concerned for the physical and psychological integrity of Ath Thorn, Morm Nhim and Tola Moeun, and other trade union representatives. Front Line believes that threat of criminal proceedings, as well as the physical threats, may represent an attempt to deter workers in Cambodia from participating in free trade unions and defending labour rights.