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Two injured in ‘brutal’ crackdown

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Workers from the Supertex Garment Factory shield themselves from the sun with placards bearing an image of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s wife, Bun Rany, during a protest yesterday in Phnom Penh.

Police armed with guns, electric batons and shields cracked down on a protest of about 300 people at the Supertex garment factory in Phnom Penh yesterday, injuring at least two people.

A dispute has simmered between more than 1,300 workers and the company’s management over unpaid wages since the factory closed its doors last month and reportedly began selling off assets.

Tuy Pheap, 29, a former Supertex employee,  said the crackdown by about 100 police and military police at the protest outside the Supertex factory, in Meanchey district, was “brutal and inhumane”.

“I don’t remember the  face of the official who used violence against me,  but I was  punched in the neck by the hand of someone from the authorities, kicked in my belly and stepped on repeatedly when I fell against the ground,” she said.

Phak Phanna, 32, said she was kicked below the stomach and dragged to the ground by her hair during the protest.

“The authorities did not push the factory owner to pay our salaries for the end of our contracts, but they subdued us women brut-ally,” she said.

Chhun Sam Aun, a mediator with the Free Trade Union, said yesterday the owner of Supertex had agreed to grant former employees compensation at a hearing of the Arbitration Council on Monday.

The proposed package includes severance pay as well as compensation for loss of employment and for failure to provide adequate notice of dismissal to workers.  Chhun Sam Aun said the Arbitration Council would hear the case again on July 21.  

A police officer who spoke on the condit-ion of anonymity said yesterday that authorities had intervened because the protest caused traffic congestion, though he denied that any violence had been used.   
“They slipped and fell by themselves – no authorities hit them. [Police] pushed them from the street to facilitate traffic [flow],” the oficer said.

Liv Man, a former Supertex administration chief, said he did not know what resolution would be reached in the dispute because he had also been sacked.

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