Cambodia: Police Arrest Trade Union Activists


Important strike at the NagaWorld Casino Complex


By Laurence Humphries, Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT), 14 January 2022,




After 19 days on strike against layoffs and mass sackings the Cambodian police have arrested scores of striking workers in defence of their jobs and livelihoods at the Naga World Casino complex in Phnom Penh. The leader of the union of Khmer employees, Chhim Sithar, who visited the complex was roughly bundled into a car by undercover Police with her arms twisted behind her backs. This aggressive behaviour is typical of how the police attack and arrest anyone in Cambodia. Workers have rights but the Hun Sen regime arrests and locks up anyone in prison. Democratic rights are absent in Cambodia dominated by an authoritarian capitalist regime of an ex-Stalinist party. All opposition is ruthlessly suppressed.


“Sacked twice from her casino job and arrested this week on charges of endangering public security, union leader Chhim Sithar is the latest in a long line of activists to take on the challenge of campaigning for labour rights in Cambodia. Chhim Sithar, 34, has been at the forefront of a strike at the country's biggest casino, facing off against scores of riot police at protests in Phnom Penh. Since December, employees of NagaWorld casino run by Hong Kong-listed Nagacorp Ltd.’s (3918.HK) have been protesting against the layoff of 365 workers in the wake of disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic.” [1]


“Cambodian police have detained more than two dozen current and former employees of the country’s largest casino, run by a Hong Kong firm, amid the workers’ 19-day strike to protest against mass lay-offs and alleged labour law violations last year. On Tuesday, union leader Chhim Sithar, who was among the 1,329 people laid off last year, was detained by police. A video posted on Twitter showed what appeared to be undercover police pouncing on her and forcefully dragging her towards a white sedan. Hundreds of workers at NagaWorld, a casino that is part of the sprawling leisure complex in the Cambodian capital owned by NagaCorp Ltd, have been on strike since December 18. They are calling for the reinstatement of 365 employees who were laid off last April and May. NagaCorp management laid off 1,329 of its more than 8,000 employees in May, claiming financial troubles during the Covid-19 pandemic. The complex was forced to close early last year due to government-mandated lockdowns. NagaCorp reported its first losses in its listed history in its half-year report in 2021. The police first detained 10 people on New Year’s Eve, but with workers continuing to return to the grassy strip of park in front of the company’s Naga 1 building or nearby to strike, after negotiations between the union, company management and authorities stalled, police detained another 17 people on Monday. Nine people, including several detained on New Year’s Eve, were charged on Monday for incitement to endanger social Security.” [2]




No basic democratic rights in Cambodia




There has been a history of Bonapartist attacks on workers’ rights in Cambodia under the authoritarian bourgeois government of Hun Sen. This latest example is a demonstration of the state’s high handed and anti-democratic behaviour of dealing with major social unrest. They have been using the COVID 19 virus as an excuse to lock down people, force them to have vaccinations and restrict their movements from one region to another. This dispute is a reaction against the Hong Based Corporate employer who just wants to sack and lay off his staff to maximise his profits without having to pay for an enlarged workforce. The union under Chhim Sithar fought back in defence of their jobs. NagaWorld admits that its illegal profits have increased and there is no reason why they should threaten 365 workers with the sack.


“On Monday, at least 15 strikers, including a pregnant woman, were detained by military police who surrounded the site in large numbers, according to monitors at the scene and the union. The industrial action started on Dec. 18. The local gambling giant, whose parent company is listed in Hong Kong, terminated more than 1,300 employees last year as several COVID-related disruptions hit revenue. The union goes by the name Labor Rights Supported Union of Khmer Employees of NagaWorld. It has called for the reinstatement of 365 workers who refused to take the compensation offered in the termination package. It has also issued several demands related to severance, wages and contracts. Despite authorities' pressure, daily demonstrations have at times swelled to more than 1,000 people. The union and rights groups have accused authorities of siding with one of Cambodia's most powerful companies rather than protecting the rights of workers. NagaWorld, which has a monopoly license in Phnom Penh, was among the world's most profitable casinos in 2018, according to an analysis that year by Gambling Compliance. Malaysian CEO Chen Lip Keong, who majority owns the company, is worth $2.9 billion, according to Forbes.” [3]


As bourgeois reports have shown this is a major international corporation with enormous surplus of profits and without the workforce would be unable to make these enormous profits of millions of dollars.




The Hun Sen bonapartist regime




Basic democratic rights do not exist in Cambodia under the Hun Sen regime. Hun Sen is an ageing ex-Stalinist and bourgeois capitalist who has ruled Cambodia for over 40 years. First, he served as a Stalinist state leader and now – with the continuing inter-imperialist rivalry of the U.S., China, Russia, Japan and Europe – as a Bourgeois capitalist. He is a bonapartist dictator who stamps out all opposition forces – banning political opposition bourgeois parties, imprisoning their leaders or, if they are lucky, they will find exile abroad. He is treating this dispute with the same dictatorial methods. Cambodia is a police state in all but name as the RCIT has stated previously.


“Many activists campaigning for democratic rights have been arrested and are languishing in Cambodian jails. It is the policy of Hun Sen to deal with all his opponents in this way. He ensured in the 2018 General election that opposition pro-democracy parties were banned and their leaders either jailed or escaped into exile. Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party won all 125 seats. The result speaks for itself. In 2020 Hun Sen had a leader of a bourgeois-democratic party arrested and jailed. Trade union and labour leaders are constantly under attack for defending the rights of workers and poor peasants and establishing basic democratic rights.” [4]




Free all political prisoners!




The RCIT calls for the immediate release of union leader Chhim Sithar and all the workers arrested at Naga Corp Casino complex in Phnom Penh. They must be reinstated in employment at Naga Corp Casino complex together with Rong Chhun – another union leader imprisoned on the orders of the Hun Sen regime. The leadership of the Cambodia National Rescue Party, the main opposition bourgeois party dissolved and banned, must be reinstated as a legitimate party able to fight and contest elections.


The ILO has written to Hun Sen requesting that all the Naga Corp workers jailed by the regime be released. “The International Labour Organisation (ILO) has urged Prime Minister Hun Sen to use his powers to ensure the immediate release of NagaWorld trade union activists following their arrest on “conspiracy” charges – a matter officials said must be resolved through the courts. ILO director-general Guy Ryder made the call in a letter to Hun Sen on January 7, stating the fundamental importance of respect for freedom of association as one of the primary safeguards of peace and social justice which he said is fully recognised by Cambodia’s laws and Constitution. Ryder called for the release of all detained workers and the dropping of all criminal charges related to their trade union activity. “I expressed deep concern over the recent arrests of workers and union activists following the peaceful strike called by the Labour Rights Supported Union of Khmer Employees of Naga World (LRSU),” Ryder said in a subsequent press statement. Nine union leaders and activists have been indicted by the court thus far with eight of them placed in pre-trial detention on charges of “inciting serious social unrest” after more than 1,000 workers of the integrated resort went on strike to protest the lay-off of 365 fellow employees who they say were targeted for union organising. [5]


The RCIT puts forward the following demands.


Free all political Prisoners including Chhim Sithar and the workers at Naga Corp and reinstate back into employment!


No to the ban of the Cambodia National Rescue Party!


No to Lockdowns over the Covid! Defend basic democratic rights!


Nationalise all corporations and international cartels like Naga Corp under workers control!


For a workers and peasants government!


Join the RCIT!






1) Arrested union leader the latest to take up the fight for labour in Cambodia | Reuters


2) Cambodian police crack down on casino workers after lay-off negotiations with Hong Kong-listed NagaCorp stall | South China Morning Post (


3) Cambodia workers face court action over NagaWorld casino strike - Nikkei Asia


4) Cambodia: Trade Union Leader Imprisoned for “Causing Social Unrest” - International Revolution (


5) ILO petitions Hun Sen for release of detained NagaWorld protesters | Phnom Penh Post