Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Guards beat demonstrators at union law protest

Guards beat demonstrators at union law protest

Daun Penh district security guards drag a union member participating in a protest against the draft trade union law near the National Assembly this morning.
Daun Penh district security guards drag a union member participating in a protest against the draft trade union law near the National Assembly this morning. Hong Menea

Guards beat demonstrators at union law protest

Violence broke out near the National Assembly this morning as notorious Daun Penh district security guards were brought in to disperse less than 100 union workers protesting against the controversial draft trade union law.

Union workers, rights organisations and workers’ rights groups – who had gathered near the Buddhist Institute as streets leading to the parliament had been barricaded by police – were pushed, shoved and in some instances beaten by the Daun Penh guards after the demonstrators started chanting slogans against the draft law, which comes before the Assembly for a vote today.

Yang Sophorn, prominent union leader and president of the Cambodian Alliance of Trade Unions, was one of the protesters shoved to the ground during the scuffle. Suth Chet – a member of Collective Union of Movement of Workers, who is the subject of a criminal complaint in relation to a bloody clash in which counter-protesters beat unionists at the Agile Sweater Factory in Kampong Speu in January – was punched in the face by one guard while being restrained by several others.

“We were peaceful and there was no violence or traffic jam, so why did they do this to us?” Sophorn said.

She said the protesters wanted to convey to the government their dissatisfaction with the law in its current state, but the actions of the security guards was the opposite of what they were expecting.

“We have no confidence in the government, and if this law is adopted it will be implemented badly,” she added.

Given the peaceful nature of the protests, the security guards needed to be held accountable for their “immoral actions,” said Nay Vanda, the deputy head for monitoring at rights group Adhoc, who was also present at the protest.

The Daun Penh guards earned a reputation for gratuitous violence in the wake of the disputed 2013 elections, when they were frequently called in to disperse peaceful pro-opposition demonstrators, often by savagely beating them.

Union members speak at a protest against the draft trade union law near the National Assembly this morning.
Union members speak at a protest against the draft trade union law near the National Assembly this morning. Hong Menea

“So this action only shows that the security personnel still have a cruel attitude towards nonviolent protesters,” Vanda added.

The contentious draft union law has seen opposition from local and international trade unions over the last nine months, with calls to amend key clauses pertaining to workers’ rights – guaranteed by the International Labour Organisation’s Conventions 87 and 98, both of which Cambodia has signed.

MOST VIEWED

  • Mysterious century-old structure found at bottom of Angkor pond

    The Apsara National Authority (ANA) has discovered a mysterious 1,000-year-old structure of a wooden building at the bottom of a pond after the Angkor Wat temple’s conservation team completed restoring its northern cave. The deputy director at ANA’s Angkor International Research and Documentation

  • Cellcard announces Cambodia’s first use of 5G to help Kingdom during Covid-19

    Cellcard on Friday announced Cambodia’s first use of 5G for a telemedicine service at four locations across Phnom Penh to help the Kingdom’s most critically ill during the Covid-19 outbreak. Cellcard, which is the only 100 per cent Cambodian-owned and "Proudly Khmer" mobile network

  • Former CNRP activist nabbed for offering online English classes

    Authorities detained a high school teacher in Kampong Chhnang province on Thursday after he was caught conducting online classes despite the fact that schools had been ordered to close temporarily to prevent Covid-19 infections. Keo Thai teaches at Boribo High School in Kampong Chhnang and

  • Health ministry warns against using virus-testing machines

    The Ministry of Health has threatened legal action against anyone who publicised their test results after using COVID-19 rapid testing machines. The ministry said such machines were not even approved or recognised for use by the World Health Organisation (WHO). It said test the results

  • National Assembly approves two coal-fired power plants

    The National Assembly (NA) unanimously approved draft laws paving the way for the construction of two coal-fired power plants worth $1.665 billion to supply 100 per cent of electricity required in the Kingdom by 2025. An NA member said at the session that the plants will be located

  • The good and bad of credit growth

    In the last 10 years, the property and construction sectors have propelled Cambodia’s economy. But rising borrowings threaten to dampen its future unless something is done soon They say all good things must come to an end, perhaps not “the” end. A slowdown in real