Half of the 10 people arrested on Saturday after a clash at a Kampong Cham shoe factory were released after being questioned in court yesterday, according to a union official.
“After the questioning, [the court] said they [the five released] were not involved,” said Ath Thorn, president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union (C.CAWDU).
Prosecutors yesterday questioned nine of the 10 who had originally been detained after violence broke out between protesters, police and other workers from within the same Juhui Footwear factory on Saturday.
They will question the final person today, after which the court will decide whether to charge the remaining five still being detained. No one has been charged in the case so far.
Kampong Cham provincial deputy prosecutor Chiv Chandara declined to comment on the case. Factory officials from Juhui could not be reached.
About 200 workers yesterday stood outside Kampong Cham Provincial Court in support of those being questioned.
“The workers gathered in front of the factory again this morning, but some travelled to the court,” said C.CAWDU legal adviser Seang Yoth.
Before the 10 went into court for questioning, Kim Socheat, the attorney representing them, said he believed charges would likely not be serious enough to hold them.
Despite this attitude, fear of a widening dragnet is pervasive.
Hith Hun, a Juhui worker representative, said police have been to factory activists’ homes in order to arrest them.
“I have avoided arrest since Saturday,” Hun told the Post yesterday. “I do not dare come back home yet, because the police are going through every house to search for and arrest us.”
Cheung Prey district police chief Heng Vuthy on Sunday said his department was indeed searching for others believed to be involved in the protest.
Accounts of the incident differ between police and factory activists. Some say protesters – mostly C.CAWDU workers who were allegedly told on Friday they could return to work after striking for nearly two months but were subsequently barred – went after police when they confiscated a microphone and speaker and beat a woman.
Police, however, say demonstrators treated authorities as adversaries from the start and began using slingshots and hurling rocks they brought with them without any physical provocation.
Nine police were injured, according to Vuthy.
About 30 workers were injured by police and members of the Voice Khmer Union Federation (VKUF), C.CAWDU officials said. Worker representative Khan Kolap, 36, yesterday alleged that factory officials paid VKUF “gangsters” to beat protesters.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY SEAN TEEHAN