Cambodia: Call for release of union leader arrested for inciting social unrest

Rong Chhun, the president of the Cambodian Confederation of Unions (CCU), arrested last month by the Cambodian authorities for allegedly inciting social unrest on the border issues with Vietnam has garnered calls for his release from the international trade union movement. The International Federation of Journalists has joined global union organisations to demand the release of Rong Chhun and for all charges to be dropped.

Rong Chhun speaks at a factory workers' protest in Phnom Penh on July 29, 2020. Credit: Tang Chhin Sothy/AFP

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.”

For further information contact IFJ Asia - Pacific on ifj@ifj-asia.org

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 140 countries

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