Camboya - Two garment union leaders sentenced on trumped up charges

Two union leaders went on trial at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on 5 February 2016 for allegedly destroying company property during strikes by more than 2,000 garment workers at Evergreen Industrial Co. Ltd in 2011 and 2012. The factory in Phnom Penh Special Economic Zone employs about 2,500 workers and makes jeans for Old Navy and Dockers, among others.

Chum Sophea, 32, head of the Coalition of the Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union at the factory, and the union’s secretary general, Chum Pheakdey, 34, were charged with “intentionally causing damage” to property. If found guilty they face between six months and two years in jail.

The lawsuit was filed by Peng Keng Kong, executive director at the company, who demanded strong penalties for the leaders of the strikes, claiming they had incited workers to enter the property and cause serious damage. Mr Sophea and Mr Pheakdey said the charge against them was false. There was no protest in 2011, while the weeklong protest in June 2012 was non-violent, they said.
“The protests were conducted by garment worker themselves who were demanding that the company comply with Cambodian labour law. We did not incite them to damage the factory’s property,” Mr Sophea told the court. “There were no acts of violence and there was no damage to any company property.
On 19 February 2016 both men were given six-month suspended sentences and ordered to pay fines and damages. They said they would appeal.

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