THE opposition Sam Rainsy Party yesterday condemned an armed crackdown on striking garment factory workers this week, saying that peaceful means should be used to resolve their dispute with factory management.
On Tuesday, around 50 riot police descended on a factory owned by PCCS Garments Limited in Sen Sok district and tried to force an estimated 3,000 employees back to work. In the process, several workers were pushed to the ground and stunned with electric batons, and some demonstrators retaliated by throwing water bottles and plastic chairs at police.
“The use of violence on workers like this is a serious violation of individuals’ rights and the freedom of expression of the workers, which is guaranteed by the Cambodian Constitution and the Law on Peaceful Demonstrations,” the SRP said in a statement.
The strike followed six days of protests at the factory that were triggered by the dismissal of union representative Morn Channa last week.
“Once again SRP condemns the use of violence against workers of PCCS Garment Factory and would like to call for the authorities and garment factory owners to resolve the problems and allow Morn Channa ... to be re-employed,” the statement said.
PCCS workers continued their strike yesterday, and garment worker Phan Sreypov pledged that they would continue their strike until Morn Channa was reinstated.
“We still must keep our stance and demand the same until the factory owner has a resolution for Morn Channa,” she said.
But You Meng Try, a PCCS representative, said Wednesday that if the workers do not return to work by today, their salaries will be docked and they could face dismissal themselves.
“The stance of the factory is the same, not to allow their representatives back for employment,” he said.
Chea Mony, president of the Free Trade Union of Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia, of which Morn Channa is a member, said that more than 10 workers were injured by the police actions on Tuesday.
He also said that if the factory continued to deny workers’ demands, it would lose profits as well as the confidence of overseas clients.
“So the factory should find a way to have negotiations with workers so both sides can profit,” he said.
Phnom Penh Municipal police chief Touch Naruth dismissed the SRP’s concerns, saying the party was not considering the issue of “public order”.
Striking workers “threw stones at police”, the strike had blocked the main avenue to Phnom Penh International Airport, he said.
“We must have legal action; Russian Federation Boulevard cannot be allowed to have disorder. If Russian Federation Boulevard is blocked by disorder, it is very bad for us,” he said.
He also denied that any workers had been injured.