Police arrested five activists from labour-rights group Clean Clothes Campaign yesterday outside the E Garment factory in Kandal province.
Neuv Sakhan, deputy director of the Kandal provincial immigration police, told the Post four women and one man, from Norway, Belgium, England and Austria, had been taken into custody after they used a microphone to address workers on strike.
“They said they came here to meet their friends,” Sakhan said, “But they didn’t have any documents. They didn’t have their [passports with them].
“We received instructions from the National Police Commissioner [General Neth Savoeun] to detain them if they didn’t show us documents.”
The CCC, which has been vocal on wages in Cambodia and issues involving the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union (C.CAWDU), has been part of wage and freedom-of-association talks with labour-rights groups and unions in Phnom Penh this week.
Since E Garment workers began striking in late January over the dismissal of C.CAWDU leaders, seven members of the union have claimed they were beaten by factory-hired thugs. Others have accused military police of injuring them.
C.CAWDU labour dispute resolution official Buth Bunchhean said the CCC campaigners had visited E Garment about 3:30pm and were detained about two hours later.
“They’ve come here to help workers,” he said, adding they had shown photocopies of their passports, which had not been accepted as valid identification.
Police had taken them to Svay Rolum police station in Sa’ang district, telling them one of their friends could bring them their passports — a difficult task because they were staying at different hotels, Bunchhean said.
At press time, the five faced a night in the cells at the Kandal provincial police station, Sakhan said.
“We just want to find out the reason they entered Cambodia and the purpose of their visit to E Garment,” he said.
Moeun Tola, head of the labour program at Community Legal Education Center, questioned why police were asking for passports at a garment factory.
“If they didn’t have passports, they wouldn’t be allowed into the country,” he said. “[Police are] trying to intimidate the workers and those showing solidarity with them.”