RIOT police clashed with garment workers outside a factory in Sen Sok district yesterday after authorities attempted to break up a weeklong strike that followed the suspension of a union official.
Around 50 police dressed in riot gear and carrying tear-gas guns tried to force an estimated 3,000 workers back into their factory, pushing several to the ground and stunning them with batons. Some demonstrators threw water bottles and plastic chairs in response, but no serious injuries were reported during the 30-minute clash.
Porn Srey Pov, a garment worker who took part in the protests, said that yesterday was the first time police had attempted to break them up after six days of strikes.
“It was an evil activity of the police. The workers have not caused any problem to the property of the factory,” she said.
Workers said they agreed to strike in response to the suspension of Morn Channa, a union representative who was fired last week after she complained about being refused leave.
Som Souphan, another factory worker, said Morn Channa was dismissed after informing management that workers did not need a letter from a hospital in order to apply for time off.
“We dared to make this demonstration because Channa always helped us when the boss invaded our rights,” she said.
Chea Mony, the head of the Free Trade Union of Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia, was also on hand yesterday, and said the police action was an example of “illegal force”.
Sen Sok district governor Kuong Sreng said the demonstration was broken up because it had choked off traffic, affecting the schedules of senior government officials and international dignitaries.
“I just told the police to push them away from the road into the garment factory because they were causing traffic jams,” he said.
The strike at the factory, which is owned by PCCS Garments Limited, is the latest in a string of protests related to the removal of union representatives and demands for an increased minimum wage for garment workers. Workers say they will continue their strike until their demands are met.
But You Mengtri, a representative of PCCS Garments, said the workers had set a deadline this week for the workers to call off the strike, and added that there will be consequences if they don’t.
“The factory has a deadline for them to go back to work by Thursday this week or the factory will take action according to the law,” he said.