For Immediate Release
February 2, 2023
PHNOM PENH, Cambodia. – On February 1, the U.S. Department of State announced Cambodian labor union leader Chhim Sithar as one of ten recipients around the globe of the annual Human Rights Defender Award.
This prestigious award recognizes courageous individuals who show exceptional valor and leadership in advocating for the promotion and protection of universally recognized human rights and fundamental freedoms. Ms. Sithar is the first recipient from Cambodia to receive the award.
Ms. Sithar leads the “Labor Rights Supported Union of Khmer Employees” at the NagaWorld Resort and Casino. Since late 2021, Ms. Sithar has led NagaWorld employees in a peaceful strike calling for higher wages and the reinstatement of hundreds of union members who believe they were unjustly fired, including nearly a dozen union leaders who face criminal charges related to the strike.
Despite physical harassment and her arrest in January 2022 at the NagaWorld strike, Ms. Sithar continued to speak out about labor rights. After authorities released Ms. Sithar, they again arrested her in November 2022 for allegedly violating her bail by traveling abroad to a trade union conference. She remains in jail pending her trial, which has not been scheduled, and was unable to travel to Washington to join other awardees.
“We applaud Ms. Sithar’s recognition as a 2022 Human Rights Defender. She is a courageous and tenacious labor union leader who peacefully advocates for the rights of Cambodian workers,” said U.S. Ambassador to Cambodia W. Patrick Murphy.
Protecting and supporting human rights defenders is a key priority of U.S. foreign policy. The U.S. Embassy in Cambodia congratulates Ms. Chhim Sithar and all recipients of the 2022 Human Rights Defender Award.