A son of casino firm NagaCorp’s billionaire senior CEO has been accused by unionists of snatching and throwing to the ground a phone belonging to a striking employee of the company’s NagaWorld casino, with video also showing the identified executive lobbing a traffic cone at union protesters.
Chen Yiy Hwuan, an adult son of NagaCorp founder and senior CEO Chen Lip Keong, grabbed and chucked the phone belonging to striking NagaWorld worker Lex Choulay last Friday outside an entrance to the Phnom Penh casino, according to videos of the incident and four current and former NagaWorld employees, including Chhim Sithar, president of Labor Rights Supported Union of Khmer Employees of NagaWorld (LRSU).
Choulay was using his phone to film fellow union members sitting on the street, blocking a black van from exiting the casino, when a man walks toward him and snatches Choulay’s phone, a video posted on Facebook by another LRSU member shows. In a second video included in the same post, the man, identified by unionists as Yiy Hwuan, hurls the phone to the pavement.
“The screen was broken at the front. He has no right to crack my phone,” said Choulay, who has worked as a cashier at NagaWorld, Phnom Penh’s only licensed casino, for five years. Choulay said he purchased the Samsung Galaxy S10 phone for $600.
After smashing the phone, the man identified as Yiy Hwuan is also seen on video tossing an orange traffic cone at strikers before a security guard leads him away. Choulay appears to pick up his phone and continues filming the scene, including directing his phone at the man who had thrown it. The man then gets into the van and leaves the scene after security guards forcibly lift and carry away several protesters.
Yiy Hwuan was appointed CEO of NagaCorp’s hotels on April 5, according to a Hong Kong Stock Exchange filing. Two of Yiy Hwuan’s brothers, Chen Yiy Fon and Chen Cherchi, were also appointed to NagaCorp CEO roles—operations CEO and finance and treasury CEO, respectively. Lip Keong shifted to the role of senior CEO.
“The four (4) of them shall work together as a team to lead and manage the Group to bring the Group to the next level of success,” the filing says.
A fourth son of Lip Keong, Chen Yepern, serves as a managing director in the CEO cabinet and heads NagaCorp’s environmental, social and governance activities, it says.
Yiy Hwuan, 42, is also employed as CEO of Nagacorp subsidiary, NagaFarm Limited, an agricultural company. He was paid a basic salary of $176,000 in 2021, the filing says.
Lip Keong, 74, established a family trust for his five sons for “purposes of succession planning,” according to another Hong Kong Stock Exchange filing from July. The NagaCorp head transferred nearly 70% of NagaCorp shares to the trust, making Lip Keong and his sons the controlling shareholders of the company.
“My boss’s son is the person who destroyed the striker’s phone,” said LRSU president Sithar, who like striker Choulay, said she recognized Yiy Hwuan from working at the casino for years.
“We also attended our boss’s birthday celebration where he introduced his kid to the staff,” she said.
Two other LRSU members said Yiy Hwuan was the man seen throwing the phone and traffic cone in the video. They recalled seeing and interacting with Yiy Hwuan over their years working in the casino.
“Most of the time I saw him come to drink coffee and observe the staff working. I am sure that he is the eldest son of our boss,” said Mam Sovathen, a union member who was present at the strike site on Friday.
Sovathen later posted videos of the incident on her personal Facebook account, where one video received more than 218,000 views as of Thursday morning.
NagaCorp did not respond to emailed requests for comment. A person who answered a call to a number listed for a NagaCorp spokesperson declined to comment on Wednesday. Asked about Yiy Hwuan, she said, “He is out of town.”
When a reporter called a phone number listed for Chen Yiy Hwuan, chairperson of Tikto Asia Co. Ltd., in the Commerce Ministry’s business registry, a man answered and acknowledged the number belonged to Tikto but declined to identify himself.
Asked if the man in the video throwing the phone was Yiy Hwuan, he said, “We can’t confirm or deny,” and declined to comment further.
NagaCorp’s code of conduct says: “Management must set an example concerning individual responsibility and integrity because, ultimately our actions are more important than mere words,” according to the firm’s website.
Casino employees involved in the incident could lodge a police complaint, said Phnom Penh City Hall spokesperson Met Measpheakdey.
“If the phone was broken and they have convincing evidence, they can sue—it is their right,” he said.
Choulay, the casino worker whose phone was damaged, said he is considering pressing charges against Yiy Hwuan but “we will discuss with our union first.”
LRSU president Sithar said the union was still deciding whether to take legal action on Choulay’s behalf.
“What we see, this is an act of hatred toward local workers, especially when the striker is demonstrating to protect their labor rights at the workplace,” she said.
LRSU has led NagaWorld casino employees in a strike since December 2021, following mass layoffs which they say targeted union leaders and did not properly compensate workers.
Last week, 17 unions and civil society organizations called on the company to reinstate laid-off workers, pay seniority benefits and comply with the labor law.
Union member Sovathen said she hoped the videos would prompt action.
“I hope the head of the government, especially Samdech Techo [Prime Minister Hun Sen], will not allow NagaWorld to violate the laws of our country, as we see the character of the son of our boss who despises Khmer workers,” she said. “If [Hun Sen] does not intervene, it is the saddest thing.”
“We simply seek justice and a return to work,” she added.