A boycott of the Capitol Bus Company organised by former drivers and their supporters is picking up steam online after a brutal beatdown took place at a protest last week.
The drivers, who have been protesting for the reinstatement of 45 of their own after they were allegedly fired for trying to start a union, announced the boycott in December.
But it was only after February 6, when members of a tuk-tuk drivers’ association accused of working with the company were recorded beating the protesting drivers with hammers, sticks and metal rods, that the boycott appears to have gained traction.
One post calling for the boycott on Friday from Khmer Sovannaphumi, a popular Facebook page run by a political opposition supporter, garnered almost a thousand shares and dozens of comments.
Under the post, plastered with photos of bloodied bus drivers, commenters slammed the tuk-tuk drivers’ organisation that allegedly busted the protest, the Cambodia for Confederation Development Association, likening them to “gangsters”.
A flurry of posts from similar Facebook pages and civil society activists has sparked Cambodians to publicly announce their own boycott pledges on social media.
Tep Sorsina posted on Facebook that he was supporting the boycott because “the victims need justice, and I support justice”. Pich Peoupichet posted that for him, giving business to Capitol was the equivalent to “supporting criminal violence and bloodshed”.
One driving reason behind the outrage was local authorities, who arrested and charged two protesters but not a single CCDA member. Four prominent union leaders were charged as well, although they have not been arrested.
“We never saw the government intervene, they let the company continue to use violence,” said Meas Nee, a social analyst who joined the boycott.
International pressure has been building against Capitol as well.
On Thursday, the Brussels-based International Trade Union Confederation wrote a letter to the Labour Ministry condemning the violence.
“We expect that all charges will be dropped immediately and those detained will be freed,” the letter read.
However, Capitol representative Phou Kok Vann maintained that protesters were the ones behind the violence, and said the boycotts had not led to any decline in passenger numbers.
“Our customers are now just hearing rumours about who started this conflict; we have tried to explain to them who was right and who was wrong.”