Cambodian union leader jailed over casino strike

Cambodian union leader jailed over casino strike

Rights groups say charges are baseless.

Men sit together outside a closed-down casino in Sihanoukville, Cambodia, on Feb 27, 2020. (Photo: Reuters)
Men sit together outside a closed-down casino in Sihanoukville, Cambodia, on Feb 27, 2020. (Photo: Reuters)

PHNOM PENH: A Cambodian court on Thursday jailed a woman union leader for two years for leading a strike against the country's biggest casino to demand the reinstatement of workers laid off during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Chhim Sithar had long campaigned for the return of hundreds of workers laid off from the NagaWorld casino in Phnom Penh.

She was first arrested in January last year at a protest site near the casino and was charged with incitement, a common tactic authorities use against activists.

Chhim Sithar was re-arrested in November for violating bail conditions upon her return from a conference in Australia.

Several dozen former casino workers protested outside the court after her sentencing on Thursday, shouting "injustice" as Chhim Sithar was taken away in a prison van.

Rights groups have said the charges are baseless.

Five other union members from her group were given 18-month court monitoring orders and three more received one-year suspended jail sentences.

Prime Minister Hun Sen -- who has ruled Cambodia for more than 38 years -- has been accused by rights groups of using the courts to stifle dissent as he prepares for the July election.

Nagacorp -- a Hong Kong-listed firm that operates NagaWorld -- has an exclusive casino licence to operate in Phnom Penh.

Cambodia has a complex relationship with gambling: while it has casinos, its own citizens are officially barred from playing in them.

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