Amid the continued arrest of activists who have defied a ban on public gatherings, a group of unions and associations yesterday revealed plans for a large demonstration in Phnom Penh’s Freedom Park on Sunday.
About 10,000 people are expected to attend the rally, according to a letter to Phnom Penh Governor Pa Socheatvong, which is signed by nine unions and associations.
“I have not received a reply from City Hall yet, but we will hold the rally if they do not allow it,” said Heng Sam Orn, secretary general of Independent Democratic Association of Informal Economic (IDEA).
Signatories to the letter include IDEA, Cambodian Youth Network (CYN), Cambodian Food and Service Workers’ Federation (CFSWF), Free Trade Union (FTU), Cambodian Independent Civil-Servant Association (CICA), Cambodian Independent Teachers Association (CITA), Cambodian Alliance Trade Unions (CATU), National Trade Union Confederation (NTUC) and The Building and Wood Workers Trade Union Federation of Cambodia (BWTUC).
Participants at the one-day rally, which will take place between 7am and 5pm, are demanding the release of 23 people detained while supporting garment workers’ strikes on January 2 and 3, a $160 minimum monthly wage for all Cambodian workers (not just those in the garment sector) and for officials to remove a ban on demonstrations.
At least 12 people, including the president and deputy president of IDEA, have been detained for violating the demonstration ban in the past week.
“Justice is important to us … youth must join,” CYN president Tim Malay said yesterday. “The salary is important, because when youth are finished with school, they need to find jobs … [and] they get low salary when they go to work.”
Phnom Penh City Hall spokesman Long Dimanche yesterday said he has not received the letter, but will send it along to Socheatvong for approval or denial when he receives it.
Malay said the prospect of a crackdown worries him, but that the principles behind the planned demonstration are too important to let that possibility stop them.
“We’re afraid, but it is important. When we exercise our human rights, the people have been repeatedly arrested,” Malay said. “They’ve stopped our rights, and it is not good that the authorities and government have taken this route.”