With only about 10 per cent of its 1,000-person workforce at their stations by 8am yesterday, management at Hoyear (Cambodia) Garment Ltd cut its losses and announced that the factory would close for the next two days.
In his time working as Hoyear’s human resources manager, Em Socheat had never seen such a large absence of employees, he said. But then, clashes between military police and pro-opposition demonstrators that left one dead and several severely injured the previous day put Phnom Penh in a state of alert rarely seen in recent years.
“This is the first time that they’re [so] afraid of demonstrations,” Socheat said of the three-day ongoing demonstration in Freedom Park organised by the Cambodia National Rescue Party. “[It’s] because of the political situation in Cambodia.”
Thousands across the capital opted out of work and school yesterday as calls for caution – including an emergency notice from the United States embassy advising US citizens to stay off the street – reverberated around the city.
Cambodian public schools don’t begin until October, but at least a dozen private schools already in session in Phnom Penh told the Post they were disrupted by the demonstration, which started on Sunday.
“The parents [of the students] who didn’t come say they are afraid to send their kids,” said Selinna Peng, vice-principal of Maple Technology Enhanced Learning, where a significant number of students did not attend class yesterday.
Peng added that she wasn’t sure her school would be open today.
At the University of Health Sciences across from Freedom Park, exams were delayed, and at English Language Training Institute up to 30 per cent of students failed to attend class.
“We also worry about roadblocks and that it would be difficult for the students who ride the school bus,” said Men Khemrin, ELT’s administrative manager.
In addition to Hoyear Garments, Kin Tai Garment Co Ltd and Tae Young (Cambodia) Co Ltd shut their doors yesterday due to sparse attendance, Yang Sophorn, president of Cambodian Alliance of Trade Unions, said. But not all workers who stayed home did so out of fear, Sophorn said.
About 500 employees at Kin Tai came into work and staged a walkout yesterday, marching from the Meanchey district factory to Freedom Park, said Chheang Thida, who walked out with co-workers.
“Other workers and I boycotted work to join the demonstration, help workers earn higher wages [as the CNRP promised] and improve the lives of all Cambodian people,” Thida said.