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Labour rallies move overseas

Protesters outside the Cambodian embassy in Seoul
Protesters outside the Cambodian embassy in Seoul yesterday demand the resignation of Prime Minister Hun Sen. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Labour rallies move overseas

As protests in Cambodia become scarce in the wake of authorities opening fire on demonstrators near Canadia Industrial Park, killing at least four people, labour and human rights advocates across the globe are showing solidarity with demonstrations of their own.

Since the deadly incident on January 3, protesters have gathered at Cambodian embassies in more than a dozen countries to publicly condemn the shooting of unarmed demonstrators.

“The shooting against the protesters cannot be justified at all,” said Mikyung Ryu, international director of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, which has organised three demonstrations in South Korea.
“On no grounds should the military fire on protesters.”

About 2,000 demonstrators attended the protest at the Cambodian embassy in Seoul yesterday, Ryu said. Their first demonstration was held at the embassy a few days after the shooting, and they held a second rally outside South Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, where they decried the country’s alleged complicity in the shooting.

Before the crackdown, the South Korean government allegedly encouraged Cambodian authorities to take a hard line against striking garment workers.

Protests have also occurred at Cambodian embassies in the Philippines, Hong Kong, Thailand, Indonesia, Bangladesh, the United Kingdom, Malaysia, the United States, India, Germany and Turkey, said Joel Preston, a consultant with the Community Legal Education Center.

An international group of at least 10 labour groups, calling themselves in a letter the World Solidarity Action to Support Garment Workers and Release Union Activist and Workers in Cambodia, have coordinated with each other to compel government officials and clothing brands that buy from Cambodia to launch an investigation into the incident.

In a rally at the Cambodian embassy in Washington, DC on Friday, Cambodian Ambassador Hem Heng met with organisers, said Jeff Hermanson, director of Global Strategies for Workers United, Service Employees International Union.

“We told him we would continue protesting until the workers’ rights were restored . . . and negotiation resumed,” Hermanson said in an email.

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