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Mass arrest at Bavet garment protest

Police use a fire hose to disperse demonstrators at a protest in Bavet this morning, where thousands of garment workers are striking to demand an increase to the minimum wage.
Police use a fire hose to disperse demonstrators at a protest in Bavet this morning, where thousands of garment workers are striking to demand an increase to the minimum wage. Photo supplied

Mass arrest at Bavet garment protest

A large group of striking garment workers has been arrested in the Svay Rieng province town of Bavet, officials and rights groups confirmed, during a day of protests that has seen water cannons used to disperse crowds.

Ros Tharith, provincial administration director, said authorities intercepted a “small number” of workers this morning who were supposedly carrying rocks that they were going to use to pelt a factory in the Manhattan Special Economic Zone.

“They wanted to incite other workers to come out,” he said.

“Our authorities did not crack down; we just took action to prevent them from using violence and arrested them, and we will wait to see how they explain themselves.”

But while there is no official tally of the number of those arrested yet, Nouth Bopinnaroath, provincial coordinator for rights group Licadho, estimated that more than 30 male and female workers were arrested.

“The men were tied down with ropes and hand-cuffed … It is not a good picture.”

Photos uploaded to local media and Facebook showed police dispersing strikers with water cannons.

Chea Oddom, provincial representative of the Cambodian Union for the Movement of Workers, said three trucks were loaded with arrested workers this morning. He estimated that some 8,000 workers were on strike today, down from a reported 30,000 last week.

The strikes began last Wednesday after workers demanded a $20 raise to the current minimum wage of $128, $8 more than the $140 figure mandated by the government in early October. Violence was soon reported after factories were pelted by stones and had their doors broken down.

Four garment workers were already arrested on Friday and charged with damages, violence and incitement on Sunday.

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