The Phnom Penh Municipal Administration denied claims that police and authorities had used violence against protesting employees of the NagaWorld integrated resort and engaged in sexual harassment of female demonstrators.
In a press release on March 28, it dismissed the accusations recently spread on social media as baseless.
“The spokesman of the Phnom Penh Municipal Administration utterly refutes this fake news which has no basis in fact and is intended to slander and shift blame onto the authorities who were on duty at the protest to provide security, ensure public safety and maintain social order,” it said.
The statement goes on to say that the NagaWorld staff have been illegally protesting for over three months now and the authorities have put great effort into facilitating a negotiated resolution to the dispute while also providing security and ensuring the safety of the protesters and maintaining public order.
The statement claims that the officers present demonstrated a high degree of tolerance and patience while enduring
insults, mischief and even violence committed by the protesters, but instead of being thanked and appreciated for these efforts they themselves are being accused of violence and sexual harassment.
“How would it be possible for the city authorities to commit such immoral acts in a public place with the eyes of so many people – such as vendors, commuters and passersby – watching them?” the statement inquired.
The authorities suggested that any protesters who claimed to be victims of violence or harassment file a complaint to the authorities that includes evidence like photos or the names of other witnesses so that they can investigate the matter and take legal action against any offenders.
However, should the complaints prove to be false or unsupported by real evidence those who make the accusations will potentially be held responsible according to the law.
Am Sam Ath, deputy director for rights group Licadho, said that his civil society organisation had also issued a statement regarding the protests at NagaWorld, urging all parties to halt any violence and find a peaceful solution to the labour dispute.
“What’s important is that the authorities and the relevant ministries and institutions encourage both NagaWorld and the worker’s union to negotiate an end to the dispute. That is the best option for everyone.
“If there is no solution, the use of force to break-up or block the protests could lead to another incident involving disorderly conduct and violence which will only generate more condemnation and criticism,” he said.
The Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training facilitated another meeting on March 29 between the representatives of NagaWorld and the representatives of the protesters in order to continue to try to find some solution to the dispute despite the many previous rounds of negotiations that have failed to reach any common ground.
According to the ministry’s post-meeting statement released late on March 29, no further progress has been made on any agreement between the two parties at this time.