Four NagaWorld strikers could face up to ten years imprisonment following a lawsuit by their employer NagaCorp, alleging charges of breaking and entering, property damage and unlawful confinement in a summons to appear in Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Monday.
The lawsuit is the first filed by NagaCorp against current and former casino employees since hundreds went on strike in December 2021 due to mass layoffs earlier that year, said Am Sam Ath, operation director of human rights group Licadho. But the four strikers have not yet been formally charged by the court, he added.
Striker Sok Thavuth said she and her three colleagues named in the lawsuit complied with the law while on strike.
“I saw the lawsuit, I was speechless because we did not do anything wrong,” she said. “The strike did not violate rights…as Naga[World] alleged.”
None of the strikers named in the lawsuit said they could recall any specific incident which might have triggered the lawsuit during their daily gatherings to strike outside the NagaWorld casino in accordance with Cambodian labor laws.
The alleged charges in the lawsuit are baseless and designed to intimidate them and their fellow strikers, they said.
The company filed suit on September 30, but the four strikers say they only learned in the past week that they were required to appear in Phnom Penh Municipal Court for questioning by deputy prosecutor Chhay Hong. The strikers, represented by Licadho, requested a deferral for their court appearance but said they have not heard back from the court yet.
NagaCorp and Phnom Penh Municipal Court spokespersons did not respond to requests for comment.
NagaCorp’s lawsuit was filed the same day a man identified by strikers as Chen Yiy Hwuan, son of billionaire NagaCorp senior CEO Chen Lip Keong, grabbed and threw the phone of a striker filming other strikers blocking Yiy Hwuan’s van outside a NagaWorld entrance.
A subsequent social media post by a striker sharing videos of the incident received hundreds of thousands of views on social media. But the strikers named in the lawsuit are different from the strikers directly involved in that incident.
Seak Panha, another striker named in the lawsuit, believes she and her colleagues were targeted by the company because they have been active participants in the strike every day. They have also posted on social media about the strike and some have spoken with the media.
“They [NagaCorp] always threaten us in order to make us stop striking and we are afraid,” she said. “So they want to show that they have money, they can do anything to us, those who do not have money.”
Yang Sophorn, president of the Federation of Trade Unions of Cambodia, said NagaWorld’s legal complaint undermined progress towards a solution and threatened workers’ constitutional rights.
At least 11 union members were previously imprisoned by Phnom Penh authorities since the strike began in December. They have since been released on bail.
In March, 15 union leaders were charged with “incitement and violating health rules” but were released on bail after they appealed to the Ministry of Labor to facilitate the settlement of the labor dispute.
Thavuth said she is not afraid of the potential legal consequences. She said she plans to continue participating in the strike until the company and union members negotiate a resolution.
“I am still on strike because there is no solution yet, even though I am [facing the lawsuit] I did nothing wrong,” she said. “Suing [us] is the opposite of what strikers want, we want a solution.”