Cambodian Journalists Alliance Association

Union Leader Morm Rithy Convicted for Criticizing Chinese-owned Jin Bei Casino Two Years Ago

Union leader Morm Rithy was arrested after being convicted on charges of incitement to commit a crime following a lawsuit by Chinese-owned Jin Bei Group and has been sent to Prey Sar prison where he will serve an 18-month sentence.

Rithy, president of Cambodian Tourism and Service Workers’ Federation (CTSWF) and vice president of Cambodian Labor Confederation (CLC), and two officers were  picked up from the office in Meanchey district, Phnom Penh on Tuesday, said Phnom Penh Municipal police spokesperson Sam Vichhika. However, the two officers were released later.

“The court ordered him [Rithy] to be placed in Prey Sar prison yesterday [Tuesday],” he said.

A statement issued by CLC decried the conviction, passed in absentia against Rithy, calling it “unreasonable” and “intimidating”, and a form of harassment of the rights of employee representatives.

Rithy had previously stated in a post on Facebook that he had “lost faith in the court’s decision” after a casino worker was charged for allegedly committing a crime in 2022.

According to CLC, Rithy was expressing his opinion on social media regarding the labor dispute with Jin Bei Group at the time.

On May 7, 2024, Rithy was convicted in absentia under Articles 494, 495 and 523 of the Criminal Code by Phnom Penh Municipal Court. He was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment for inciting and discrediting the judicial decision, and fined two million riel ($500).

The court verdict showed that he committed the offense via Facebook on February 24, 2022. Rithy allegedly criticized Jin Bei 2 casino live on Facebook, for accusing a female worker, Morm Sreyleak, of helping a guest cheat and win about $18,000, and not visit the casino again.

“You take a girl and you intimidate her […] she is denying that she did not do it [but] you still forced her,” Rithy said, adding that the management of Jin Bei 2 only called Morm Sreyleak into the room where there were foreigners and Khmer people who forced her to admit.

Rithy also criticized the court for detaining Morm Sreyleak without evidence and asked the court to release the video of the court’s charges against her.

“I asked the court [which charged her] to watch the video [and ask] what do you see? Did you understand or just listened to the company telling you that she is guilty and [went ahead] to charge her? Because of this case, the company is the accuser,” Rithy said on his Facebook post in 2022.

Touch Kosal, president of Cambodia Tourism Workers’ Union Federation, urged the court to release Rithy, as the arrest affects the freedom of Cambodian unions.

“[He] was expressing his opinion on the injustice of workers and was arrested, so the other union leaders dare not comment. If they don’t dare to comment, injustice would worsen,” he said, adding that the arrest showed that rights and freedom in Cambodia have declined.

Kosal asked the court to release Rithy because he was merely exercising his rights, which is guaranteed in Cambodia’s constitution.

Lawyer Sam Chamroeun, who is representing Rithy, confirmed that a lawsuit had been filed by Jin Bei Group. He declined to comment further.

Phnom Penh Municipal Court spokesperson Y Rin did not reply to questions, while Jin Bei Group did not respond to a request for comment.