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Garment workers ‘beaten unconscious’

121227 03
Workers from the Conpress Holdings factory protest, Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2012, in Phnom Penh. Photograph: Pha Lina/Phnom Penh Post

Four garment workers, three of them female, were injured yesterday morning when company and police officials clashed with protesters, union representatives said yesterday.

During demonstrations for the reinstatement of fired workers and back pay, authorities beat two workers unconscious at a protest in front of the Master and Frank factory in Kandal province’s Ang Snuol district, while factory security officers injured two protesters at the Conpress Holdings factory in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district, the union representatives said.

About 50 district police officials hit protesters with electric batons as they attempted to push back the crowd of 300 at Master and Frank, knocking out a man and a pregnant woman in the process, said Saom Sokhim, a Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic union member.

“We sent them to the district hospital,” he said, adding that the workers were protesting to demand the factory reinstate 11 union members fired over the past four months, and that it pay workers their lunch wages, which were three days late.

The company had accused the fired union members of inciting the workers to protest, he said.

An Ang Snuol district police official who asked to remain anonymous denied authorities had used violence against the protesters.

“They have to show us evidence of what they’re alleging,” he said.

The workers said they planned to protest in front of the Ministry of Interior yesterday evening or today.

Meanwhile, Conpress Holdings factory security officers injured two workers while throwing rocks and using fire extinguishers against more than 200 protesters who were burning tyres in front of the factory, according to Free Trade Union officer Ry Sithinet.

He said security officers used fire extinguishers to put out the blazing tyres but also sprayed the nearby workers and threw stones at them, injuring two women in the hand and torso.

The workers, then in the second day of protesting, threw rocks back at the officials, he added.

The protesters are demanding the factory reinstate six union members sacked in the past two months and cease discriminating against union members and forcing employees to work overtime, he said.

“The local authorities went down to intervene, but they did not find a resolution, and they asked us do not burn tyres anymore,” he said.

“The workers went home after the factory injured the workers and played its speakers very loudly to disturb our protest, but we will protest again tomorrow in the early morning.”

Administrative manager for Conpress Holding, Thun Bunny, yesterday denied the workers’ claims that security officers had used violence against them.

“We just tried to put out the fire when they burned [the tyres],” he said. “We have a camera that hangs on the door of the factory, so we have evidence to show who is wrong and who is right.”

Bunny said he had asked the company lawyer to pursue legal action against the workers for the protest.

 

To contact the reporter on this story: May Titthara at titthara.may@phnompenhpost.com
 

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