Garment Workers File Petition to Drop Incitement Complaint

Four workers’ representatives for the shuttered Chung Fai Knitwear factory appeared for court questioning on Wednesday, then submitted a petition to the Labor Ministry asking for severance pay and that the court complaint be dropped.

The four had been called for questioning regarding ministry allegations that they had incited factory employees to block National Road 2 in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district during an hourlong protest over unpaid wages in February.

Former Chung Fai Factory workers stand outside the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Wednesday in support of four workers’ representatives being questioned over a February protest. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

No immediate action was taken on Wednesday on the complaint after the morning hearing at the municipal courthouse. Sok Phany, a legal officer at Solidarity Center, an NGO that supports labor unions and workers rights, said she didn’t think the four would be charged as the complaint may have only been intended to silence them.

“The worker representatives were not at the scene when the road was blocked,” Ms. Phany said.

Khorn Chiven, who appeared for questioning with fellow garment workers Kim Sothea, Khouen Chanthon and Cheun Socheat, told deputy prosecutor Srey Makny that she wasn’t present when workers blocked the road over the Hong Kong company’s abrupt closure a year ago and non-payment of wages.

“I was at the protest earlier. I tried to stop them because it is illegal” to block the road, said Ms. Chiven, who claims she is owed more than $2,600. “But they didn’t listen, so I just went home.”

Garment factory workers gather at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Wednesday during a hearing over a road-blocking protest. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

Ms. Socheat, who worked at the factory for 18 years, also denied the allegations. “I am not afraid because I didn’t urge them to do it,” she said. “I hope the ministry will consider dropping the complaint.”

About 40 factory workers stood outside the courthouse during the questioning, and later accompanied the four as they presented the petition at the ministry. The petition urges Labor Minister Ith Sam Heng to drop the complaint and secure severance pay for the workers.

Ministry spokesman Heng Sour could not be reached for comment.

The Clean Clothes Campaign, an international alliance of NGOs, last week said it had started a campaign to obtain $550,000 to cover the workers’ unpaid salaries and severance pay.

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