Rong Chhun was arrested at his home on July 31. He has been charged under article 495 of the criminal code and allegedly inciting social unrest. He was brought to the court on August 1 to hear the charge. If found guilty, he faces a maximum two years in jail and a fine up to around US1,000.
Rong Chhun is a leader of CCU, an important trade union confederation in Cambodia, the affiliation of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC). He is a former President of the Cambodian Independent Teachers’ Association (CITA), the current chair of the ITUC Cambodian Council, and widely known as a prominent and critical unionist. He has raised concerns of local farmers lose their farmland by neighboring Vietnam due to the “irregularities” at the eastern border of Cambodia.
Prior to his detention, Rong Chhun was on the frontline for workers’ rights, including calling for the release of four members of CITA who were arrested over comments on public health issues during school closures.
Freedom of speech and freedom of expression violations against union leader has worsened alongside a deterioration in labour working conditions in Cambodia. On August 13, the representatives of trade union confederations, federations, associations, and civil society which support labour rights in Cambodia held a press conference.
Two petitions were submitted to the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training, as well as to Prime Minister Hun Sen to request his intervention for employers to pay employment seniority indemnities owed in 2019 and 2020 to workers during the Covid-19 crisis. The authorities have not given any response.
The IFJ said: “IFJ calls the authorities in Cambodia to release Rong Chhun and union activists who were arrested. IFJ stands in solidarity with the fellow unionists in Cambodia and support their fight.”