The Kampong Cham Provincial Court yesterday ordered that five workers who were arrested during a violent protest at Juhui Footwear on Saturday be held in prison while charges against them are investigated.
Two of them, Khun Sokhom and Mon Sarem, officials from the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union (C.CAWDU), were charged with “inciting intentional violence and intentional damage”, said defence lawyer Kim Socheat.
The court charged the other three, also C.CAWDU members at the Wal-Mart supplier, with the lesser crime of committing intentional violence and intentional damage, Socheat said.
“The court does not have enough evidence to charge and detain my clients.”
Police arrested 10 people after the clash, but court officials released five soon after, determining they were not involved in the protest.
About 2,000 workers who were fired for striking allegedly broke through one of Juhui’s gates on Saturday, throwing rocks and using slingshots to fire marbles at police. Workers had allegedly been told on Friday that they could return to work.
Accounts of how the clash began differ between police and unionists. Union members say workers targeted police only after they confiscated a microphone and speaker, and then beat a woman.
However, police say demonstrators were immediately violent toward authorities.
As many as 30 workers and nine police were injured.
C.CAWDU vice president Kong Athit yesterday decried the charges, saying factory bosses ultimately caused the incident by not abiding by previous agreements.
“I think workers are frustrated,” Athit said. “That’s the root cause of this issue.”
Juhui management could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Cheung Prey district police chief Heng Vuthy said unionists are playing down the violence they started. “They created the problem, but they do not want to be responsible for it,” Vudthy said.