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Govt green lights union rally in Freedom Park

Freedom Park will host the first City Hall sanctioned demonstration in seven months on Tuesday when a coalition of six unions gathers to call for higher pay, improved conditions and better training for young people.

The Phnom Penh Municipality yesterday gave the green light to the unions – which include the Farmer Association for Peace and Development and Cambodian Food and Service Workers’ Federation – to hold a rally which will coincide with International Youth Day.

About 600 young workers and students are expected.

Demonstrations at the park had been banned following mass protests in early January, the crackdown on which led to several deaths. Security forces broke up an opposition gathering at the park on January 4, violently ending consecutive days of demonstrating.

Razor wire that had blocked access to the park was removed on Wednesday this week following the Cambodia National Rescue Party’s decision to end its boycott of the National Assembly.

While the rally was approved, the municipality denied a request to march to the National Assembly, Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports and Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training, according to Sok Kin, vice president of the Building and Wood Workers Trade Union Federation of Cambodia.

Municipality spokesman Long Dimanche said that if the unions tried to walk as groups “we will stop them”.

“The municipality refused the request to march because it will disrupt traffic, interrupt people’s business, create rubbish, cause hygiene problems, and other things,” Dimanche said.

He added that, on the day, district police and municipal authorities would attend to maintain safety and order.

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