Chhim Sithar is the President of the Labour Rights Supported Union of Khmer Employees (LRSU) of NagaWorld casino where she has worked since 2007. She has been leading a strike since December 2021 following mass layoffs.


On 25 May 2023, a Phnom Penh court found the trade unionists guilty of “incitement to commit a felony or disturb social security” under criminal code articles 494 and 495, and sentenced Sithar to two years in prison and the other union members to between one to one and a half years. Only Sithar was transferred to prison while the others received suspended sentences or terms of judicial supervision.


These politically motivated charges arose directly from Sithar and the LRSU’s work defending workers’ rights and constitute a blatant violation of Cambodia’s obligations under international human rights law.


On 26 November 2022, Sithar was arrested in Phnom Penh airport on return from Australia, where she had been attending the International Trade Union Confederation World Congress in Melbourne, and meeting Australian parliamentarians in Canberra to discuss the repression facing her union. Authorities allege she violated her bail conditions – that neither her or her lawyer were aware of – by travelling overseas.


Sithar was initially arrested in January 2022 and spent 9 weeks in jail, on the bogus charge of ‘incitement to commit a felony’ – a common tactic of the Cambodian authorities to target trade unions, human rights activists, journalists and dissenters.


She is currently detained along with eight other NagaWorld union leaders who have also been charged for their role in the strike. The trial has so far focused on questioning the union’s legitimate strike activities.


Sithar’s arrests reflect a pattern of a discriminatory and politically motivated retaliation by government authorities against union leaders attempting to hold the Cambodian government and corporations to account for failing to protect workers’ rights.


Hun Sen is ramping up repression against trade unionists and political activists in the lead up to the Cambodian national elections in July, targeting the LRSU and the few remaining independent organisations and activists protecting workers’ rights and human rights, including the recent disqualification of the only remaining opposition party and the arrest of several farmworker leaders.


Sign the petition calling on Prime Minister Hun Sen to immediately drop the charges and free Chhim Sithar and her fellow unionists, and stop the attacks on trade unions.


Image credit: Chhim Sithar’s family