Eight former workers from June Textile factory were injured and two union representatives arrested after police allegedly beat demonstrators who blocked Russian Boulevard during a protest in Phnom Penh yesterday.
About 1,000 former employees were gathered in Sen Sok district to demand compensation after losing their jobs following a fire that closed June Textile’s factory in March.
Chhoup Nith, who attended the protest, said yesterday that police used violence to clear the thoroughfare. “They did not talk with workers, they just got off their truck and beat them,” he said.
Officers used electric batons to hit demonstrators’ heads, hands and legs and arrested Free Trade unionists Pheng Chou and Meas Narin, who were taken to the municipal police office, Chhoup Nith said. “If they do not release our unionists, we will protest in front of the [municipal] police office,” he added.
Representatives from human rights groups Adhoc and Licadho and the Community Legal Education Centre condemned police actions in a statement released yesterday.
“The roadblock was admittedly a serious step, but this is a serious dispute affecting thousands of workers,” said Moeun Tola, head of CLEC’s labour programme, in the statement.
“Ordinary Cambodians have no leverage, no voice and no legal recourse in situations like this. Police violence is not the way to resolve the problem.”
Ouch Leng, head of the land program at Adhoc who attended the protest, said yesterday: “It is the government’s fault because they did not invite factory owners to find a resolution for workers but allowed police to crackdown on workers and use violence.”
Khiev Savuth, deputy director of the department of labour disputes at the Labour Ministry, said yesterday that City Hall had invited factory owners and workers to a meeting on Wednesday to settle the dispute.
The demonstrators – who gathered in front of the factory in Teuk Thla commune yesterday before moving to Russian Boulevard – are demanding severance payments of US$150 for around 4,000 former employees for each year they worked at the company.
Factory owners have offered severance payments of $20 for each year worked.
Chhoup Nith said that workers would consider compromising if the company offered severance payments of $50 to $60.
Meng Try, administrative manager at June Textile Company, yesterday reaffirmed that the company would provide workers with the $20 offer. “They should understand our factory was on fire,” he said.
Phnom Penh Municipal Police Chief Touch Naruth could not be reached for comment yesterday.