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‘Strange’ interlude for Clean Clothes activists

‘Strange’ interlude for Clean Clothes activists

Five Clean Clothes Campaign foreign activists detained while visiting workers on strike at the E Garment factory in Kandal province were released without charge late Tuesday night, one of them told the Post yesterday.

Ben Vanpeperstraete, from Belgian NGO World Solidarity, which is part of CCC’s network, said the five had walked free at about 11:30pm after six hours in police custody.

“They did not give a charge or [state] a suspicion. To be honest, I think [the detainment] might have been to scare us,” he said, adding that the whole incident had been “a bit strange”.

The five were detained after meeting with members of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union outside the factory, where workers, who say they make garments for H&M, have been striking since late January.

C.CAWDU members claim they have been injured, including by military police, in two instances in the past month.

Vanpeperstraete said the five activists, all from Europe, had used a microphone during the meeting but said that visiting union leaders was a “core human right” rather than a crime.

“We were straightforward with the police. Everything we said was correct and honest,” he said.

Neuv Sakhan, deputy director of the Kandal provincial immigration police, could not be reached for comment yesterday, but said on Tuesday that the five had not been carrying their passports and could not prove their identities.

“We received instructions from the National Police commissioner [General Neth Savoeun] to detain them if they didn’t show us documents,” he said.

Buth Bunchhean, C.CAWDU labour dispute resolution officer, said his union’s president, Ath Thorn, had assured police the five had not come to Cambodia to cause trouble.

“Ath Thorn took their passports to the Kandal immigration police,” he said. “They were not charged. Police said they wanted to find out whether or not what they were doing in Cambodia was legal.”

The five activists will depart the country next week, while C.CAWDU’s members will keep protesting in front of the factory, Bunchhean said.