Camboya - Leader of biggest independent union ordered not to meet with workers, engage in public activities

In September 2014, Ath Thorn, president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union (CCAWDU), was placed under judicial supervision by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court.

The court’s decision was made a day after Thorn joined demonstrations calling for $177 monthly minimum wage for garment workers.

Thorn is on trial for charges of causing intentional violence, making threats, destroying property and obstructing traffic. The charges relate to his alleged role in three different union actions: the January 2014 protests in special export processing zones where six were killed; the April 2014 protests against SL Garment Processing; and minimum wage protests on 18 September 2014.

Thorn was already under orders not to join gatherings or meet with union members. Those orders were made by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court in April 2014, and required Thorn to stay away from the SL Garment Processing factory and to avoid public gatherings that could “damage public order”. He is alleged to have breached those orders by taking part in protests on 18 September.

“If I cannot lead workers or meet with them, then what can I do? As a president of a union, this is serious punishment for me,” he said.

This followed an earlier decision of the court to require Thorn to post a $25,000 bail in order to stay out of pre-trial detention.

Thorn is the third union leader to be subjected to a court order prohibiting participation in public gatherings until their trial concludes.

The CCAWDU is the largest independent trade union in Cambodia.

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