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Cambodian police open fire at striking garment workers

© AFP

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-01-03

At least three people have been killed and several others have been wounded after Cambodian security forces on Friday opened fire in clashes with striking garment workers, police and witnesses said.

Two human rights workers who witnessed the chaos said three or four protesters had been killed as military police armed with assault rifles and pistols shot at demonstrators who hurled rocks, bottles and petrol bombs outside a factory in the capital, Phnom Penh.

Chan Soveth of the human rights group Adhoc said at least five people had been injured in the clashes.

The workers are part of a nationwide strike demanding a doubling of the minimum wage to $160 a month. About 500,000 Cambodians are employed in the garment industry, the country’s biggest export earner. The government has offered $100 a month.

The clashes took place at Canadia Industrial Park in Phnom Penh, home to dozens of factories that make clothing for western brands that include Adidas, Puma and H&M, and come a day after Cambodian soldiers forcefully quelled a separate demonstration by striking workers, detaining Buddhist monks and labour leaders.

Meach Chandara, a member of the opposition, criticized the force used on protesters.

“Soldiers should protect the sovereignty of the country, but I am wondering why they are protecting a factory? This job should be for the riot police only,” he said.
 

The violence comes at a time of political stress, as the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party has protested daily for Prime Minister Hun Sen to step down and call elections. Hun Sen won elections last July that extended his 28-year rule in the poor Southeast Asia nation, but protesters led by opposition head Sam Rainsy accuse him of rigging the vote. Hun Sen has rejected their demand.

Although the wage and election issues are not directly linked, Cambodia’s opposition has had long and close ties with the country’s labor movement.

(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP and REUTERS)
 

Date created : 2014-01-03

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