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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Bavet factories close as protest continues

Police and security guards man a blockade at the entrance to Bavet town’s Manhattan Special Economic Zone during a garment worker strike yesterday in Svay Rieng province
Police and security guards man a blockade at the entrance to Bavet town’s Manhattan Special Economic Zone during a garment worker strike yesterday in Svay Rieng province. Pha Lina

Bavet factories close as protest continues

Entire special economic zones (SEZs) in Svay Rieng province’s Bavet town were closed yesterday after striking workers broke factory and car windows earlier this week.

Security guards and police blocked factory gates from workers as local authorities kept strikers from gathering at their employers, which they began protesting against in mid-April after Khmer New Year.

“Some workers are forcing others who want to work to join the strike,” Orn Bandol, a 19-year-old worker at Kingmaker Footwear in the Manhattan economic zone, said in front of his Bavet town home yesterday morning. “If we do not, they will throw rocks at us or destroy factory property.”

Workers at the Shandong Sunshell SEZ said security guards blocked all workers from entering, and security staff at Manhattan SEZ told Post reporters that all of the factories there were closed. Gates at the vast majority of factories at Tai Seng SEZ were closed before 7:30am, the beginning of the day for most factories.

Pav Sina, president of the Collective Union of Movement of Workers – which represents many of the striking workers – estimated that 30,000 were on strike as of yesterday, though only a couple of hundred showed up outside the gates of factories in the three economic zones. Strike activity petered out by mid-morning.

“Maybe in three or four days factories will open again if the workers calm down,” a security guard at the Manhattan SEZ said.

The shutdowns came a day after the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC) issued its second statement since the strike began, criticising police for failing to protect private property.

The police continue to fall short in keeping strikers off the grounds of the economic zones, GMAC secretary-general Ken Loo said.

“We want police to basically uphold the law . . . and to apprehend the people who are creating the violence,” said Loo, adding that he has heard of factory employees being hurt at the hands of strikers.

Strikers – who demand a $50 bonus awarded to other workers by certain factories – broke at least one factory window and one car window as security guards and military police posted inside the Manhattan economic zone looked on, Bandol and a security guard said.

Thousands of protesters outnumbered authorities by far on Monday, Bandol said. But police yesterday blocked trucks driving workers to the factory areas, Sina said.

Bavet police chief Keo Kong could not be reached.

Kao Heng, 33, who drives workers to their factories, said police phoned him on Monday evening and forbade him from picking up customers.

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