Clashes at the ongoing Sabrina Garment factory protest yesterday morning led to the arrest of eight union members and several injuries on all sides.
Demonstrations at the Kandal province Nike supplier turned violent for the second time in two weeks when protesters entered the factory and exchanged volleys of thrown objects with employees still at work, leading police and military police to intervene.
“Strikers confronted each other in the factory and used stones and sticks to damage factory property,” National Military Police spokesman Kheng Tito said, adding that nine police officers were seriously injured while intervening.
“We arrested eight union members who incited workers to use violence. We have handed them over to police to work on this issue.”
According to Free Trade Union spokesman Pich Ponnareay, about a thousand police and military officials intervened at the factory, which employs more than 5,000 workers.
“I’m not aware yet how many workers were injured, because most them were sent to hospital, and the situation was very bad at the time,” he added.
According to Ponnareay, the clash began when workers demonstrating for better benefits and wages entered the factory to assist a worker who was beaten and detained there, and workers who had not joined the strike used sticks and fire extinguishers to repel them.
“I helped two female workers who fainted after workers inside the factory used fire extinguishers to spray them. Police also beat the workers,” said Leng Pros, one of the strikers.
Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia secretary-general Ken Loo, who said he witnessed the clashes, gave a different version of events.
The protesting workers “basically came in throwing the wooden poles, throwing wooden pellets and metal pieces at the windows and at people,” he said, adding that the projectiles had injured several people.
“Of course, the factory will prepare to launch legal proceedings against the outrage that has caused property damage to the factory, together with the government I’m sure,” he said. Strikers say their demonstrations will continue.
Factory administrative manager Hong Luy declined to comment.
Additional reporting by Cheang Sokha and Justine Drennan