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2024: Sithar Chhim

The Per Anger prize winner of 2024, Sithar Chhim, is paying a high price for her union engagement and has endured harassment and threats for years. She is now imprisoned and will not be able to come to Sweden to receive the prize.

A portrait of a woman (Malú García Andrade) looking into the camera.

Sithar Chhim. Photo: Cambodian Center for Human Rights

Meet Sithar Chhim

They can put me and other leaders in prison, but they cannot shut down our fighting spirit.

Sithar Chhim

Facts about the Prize winner

Born: 1988

Education: university degree in economic informatics

Work: President of the Labour Rights Supported Union of Khmer Employees of NagaWorld (LRSU)

Nominated by: Diakonia

Sithar Chhim is the President of the Labour Rights Supported Union (LRSU) , which works to secure fair pay and conditions for workers at NagaWorld, one of Cambodia’s biggest hotel and casino complexes. Most of the members are women from poor backgrounds who work under terrible conditions, where sexual harassment is part of daily life.

Sithar Chhim has become a leading figure in the fight to make both business and government respect the right to freedom of association and labour law, which are actually protected by the Cambodian Constitution, but not respected in practice. Sithar wants more workers in Cambodia to understand that these are human rights. In Cambodia, freedom of expression and the ability to form trade unions are limited . The imprisonment, intimidation and persecution of trade union leaders and human rights defenders has become increasingly common.

Sithar Chhim faces constant opposition, with both employers and the Cambodian State trying to stop her. For several years she has been subject to harassment, threats and violence, but still she continues her fight for justice and refuses to give up. In January 2022, Sithar was arrested during a strike. She was released on bail but detained only some months later.

Sithar is still in prison awaiting trial. Although living conditions are hard, she continues to encourage and support her fellow inmates. They share their life stories with each other and make flowers out of scrap materials; both as symbols for the fight that continues inside and outside prison, and as income for food.

The jury’s statement

"Sithar Chhim has been awarded this year’s Per Anger Prize for her tireless and dedicated work to promote democracy and respect for human rights in Cambodia.

As a union leader, in a country ruled by an autocratic regime where human rights defenders are constantly under attack, she demands that employers comply with the law and that the State uphold it. Because of this, she is now in imprisoned. 

She is a vital source of support for Cambodian women who are forced to work under appalling conditions.  They are demanding to have their voices heard and their rights respected at their places of work.

Even though Sithar Chhim has endured harassment, threats, and violence for years, her fight for justice continues. Today she is imprisoned, but refuses to give up. Even in prison, she encourages and supports her fellow inmates.   

Her enormous courage and dedication are an inspiration. As a young female leader, she is a role model for us all."

This year’s prizewinner was nominated by Diakonia.

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