Sous Chantha released but contrived criminal charges upheld

After a three hour trial on 24 June, in Phnom Penh; Sous Chantha, Cambodian union leader and former employee of United Apparel Garment factory was sentenced to 10 months imprisonment for drug distribution. The sentence was reportedly set at seven months plus five days time-served and two months suspended sentence. After some discussion with legal officials, Sous was then released after the prosecution stated its decision not to appeal.

The charges against Sous were reduced during the trial from the initial charge of drug trafficking to the lesser crime of drug distribution for personal use. Presumably this was because of the impossibility of providing any evidence for the charges which are widely believed to be trumped up charges disguising union busting. No real evidence was provided for the guilty verdict. Some 35 people were able to observe the trial including his family while other supporters waited outside along with undercover police.

While we and other supporters of Sous welcome his release we remain deeply disappointed that Sous Chantha was not released unconditionally with the withdrawal of all criminal charges.

Ath Thorn, head of the Cambodian Labour Confederation speaking after the trial stated that; "Obviously we are pleased that Chantha will be soon released, but there remains a very bitter aftertaste”. He continued; “ Our first concern is for Chantha to get back to work. However this verdict is a clear warning to independant trade union activity in Cambodia – it could happen to any of us. It is a clear case of union intimidation.”

Clean Clothes Campaign will continue to work for the reinstatement of Sous and that of the scores of workers dismissed for their participation in the September 2010 strike along with an end to the harrassment of Cambodian unionists and workers.


From 13 September to 16 September 200.000 garment workers from Cambodia went on strike to demand a living wage. The actions were organised by the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Unions (CCAWDU) and the National Independent Federation of Textile Unions of Cambodia (NIFTUC) to demand a living wage of US$ 93: a salary level that can ensure basic provisions such as sufficient nutrition and shelter.

The strike received massive following from workers. While on 13 September about 68,000 workers participated, by Thursday numbers had reached a critical mass of 200,000 workers, which means that a majority of the garment workforce was in fact supporting the strike.