Cambodian police arrested 15 protesting workers this week at NagaWorld in Phnom Penh, according to Chinese news reports. The move could have negative impact on the nation’s largest casino and its operating company.
Among those detained was Chhim Sithar, president of Labor Rights Supported Union of Khmer Employees of NagaWorld (LRSU). She reportedly was arrested as she joined the picket line, witnesses told Reuters.
The recent arrests follow the apprehension of nine protestors on New Year’s Day. They were charged with endangering security, the South China Morning Post said.
When reached for comment, Sophal Ear, an associate dean at Arizona State University’s Thunderbird School of Global Management, cautioned to Casino.org the move by police and the gaming property “may be opening a pandora’s box.
“If NagaWorld management had thought this through, the reputational damage and brand destruction suffered could have been avoided,” Ear said. He questions what the actions may do to the price of company stock and to employee loyalty.
Workers are the company’s greatest assets. They could have been allies of the firm,” Ear added. “Instead, they were turned into enemies. As a result, loyalty will never be the same.”
The incident unfolded after workers went on strike because 365 of their colleagues were terminated in April. Union members have since picketed at the hotel and casino. Workers claim the layoffs were illegal.
Basically, the strike did not disrupt casino operations. But government officials counter that the strike is illegal and the layoffs were agreed upon because of the conditions generated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
That is disputed by Ear.
“Government officials can claim anything is illegal. It’s the rule of man in Cambodia,” Ear said.
Of course, that’s not how societies that protect human rights behave. You don’t make it up as you go along.”
In the long run, tourists and players will continue to visit NagaWorld, Ear said. But a current and looming threat to the bottom line relates to the COVID-19 omicron variant.
US Diplomats Tweet Concerns
In response to the latest arrests, the US embassy in Cambodia announced its concern in a tweet, Reuters reported on Tuesday.
“We are following closely the troubling arrests of @NagaWorld union members for their peaceful expression and urge authorities to hear citizens, not silence them. Freedoms of speech, assembly & association are guaranteed in the Cambodian constitution,” the embassy’s tweet said.
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