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Garment workers exiting the Juhui Footwear factory in Kampong Cham’s Cheng Prey district
Garment workers exiting the Juhui Footwear factory in Kampong Cham’s Cheng Prey district in Octorber. After a violent protest last month, five workers were arrested. Vireak Mai

Fearing arrest, workers on run

Kampong Cham police have launched a manhunt for four workers evading arrest after clashes outside a footwear factory last month turned violent.

Five workers have already been arrested and detained, two of whom were charged with inciting violence and inflicting damages. Three others were charged with lesser crimes related to the protest.

The four at-large factory workers are suspected of masterminding the strike outside the Juhui Footwear factory, according to Heng Vuthy, Cheung Prey district police chief.

Area police have issued a summons letter for the suspected plotters, who escaped an initial round of arrests during the clashes.

“I think if they did not do anything wrong, they would not try to escape from the police. If they came and apologised or negotiated with the factory to drop the complaint, I think it would have been better [for them],” said Vuthy.

Officers have been stationed outside the workers’ houses every day in order to arrest them, Vuthy said.

One of the four workers hiding from the police, Khan Kolab, 36, said yesterday that she has avoided returning home due to worries for her safety.

“I only helped the workers demand better working conditions – we need our rights,” she said. “Now, I cannot go back home, but I will when they release the five detainees and assure that I am safe.”

Yesterday, more than 200 workers continued striking outside the Wal-Mart supplier. They plan to gather again today.

“We do not crack down on them. It is their right to strike, but not to go beyond the law or cause problems for the factory such as damaging property or starting violence as they did last month,” said Vuthy.

Kim Socheat, the attorney representing the five jailed workers, sent bail requests to the court before Water Festival, but had yet to receive a response.

“I will wait and see,” he said, adding that he hopes his five clients will be released.

Kampong Cham Provincial Court officials could not be reached for comment.

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