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Striking garment factory workers block a road near the Tai Seng Bavet special economic zone last week in Svay Rieng province
Striking garment factory workers block a road near the Tai Seng Bavet special economic zone last week in Svay Rieng province. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Arrest as Bavet strike goes on

Police on Tuesday made their first arrest over a mass garment strike that has temporarily shut down entire special economic zones (SEZs) in Svay Rieng province.

A day after an allegedly violent demonstration at the Manhattan SEZ, Chan Sarin, a 21-year-old employee at the economic zone’s Best Way factory, was arrested on property destruction charges, provincial police said.

“He destroyed the car of a Chinese man intentionally, and was charged with destroying property,” said To Sithorn, Chantrea district’s police chief.

Sarin’s arrest comes amid a mass strike in Bavet town that began after factories reopened after the Khmer New Year break. Striking workers demand a one-time $50 bonus.

Pav Sina, president of the Collective Union of Movement of Workers (CUMW) – which represents many employees striking in Bavet – estimated some 30,000 workers are striking.

All factories in the Manhattan SEZ and Shandong Sunshell SEZ have been closed since Tuesday, and the vast majority of factories at Tai Seng SEZ are also closed.

“If true, [the arrest] is a step in the right direction,” said Ken Loo, secretary general of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia. “Hopefully police will be able to take this individual and pull information [about other strikers].”

GMAC yesterday held a press conference denouncing inaction by authorities.

The association held the conference after previously releasing two statements saying neither the government nor local police had taken any effective measures in stopping the demonstrations.

During the conference, Loo said protests had turned violent and he believes “for the first time” strikers have this week assaulted other employees trying to attend work.

Orn Bandol, a 19-year-old worker at Kingmaker Footwear in the Manhattan economic zone, told Post reporters on Tuesday that he wanted to work, but feared possible violence at the hands of demonstrators.

Chaet Chenda, 41, yesterday said police arrested her son, Sarin, as she nursed a wound on his hand.

“My son joined in the protest, but I do not know if he caused trouble at the factory,” Chenda said. “[Police] didn’t show me an arrest warrant.”

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