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Striking workers charged

Police officers stand watch over detained factory employees on Monday. Photo supplied
Police officers stand watch over detained factory employees on Monday. Photo supplied

Striking workers charged

Svay Rieng provincial court yesterday charged seven people for allegedly damaging a fire truck and injuring police officers during an unruly workers strike in Bavet town.

The decision came as many garment workers returned to their factories in Bavet’s special economic zones (SEZs) after a forced two-day shutdown to quell unrest following repeated clashes between police and protesters demanding higher wages.

Provincial penal police director Kim Lai alleged the six men – truck drivers for the garment factories arrested on Wednesday – and Chao Sakorn, a female garment worker detained on Thursday, attacked several police officers and damaged a fire truck on Tuesday, during the worst of the clashes.

“They were sent to court and charged with three different offences including intentional violence with aggravating circumstance, damage, and incitement,” Lai said, alleging Sakorn, 20, was among the most “cruel” protesters.

Lai said the group had been sent to the provincial prison, while more suspects were being sought over the violence, which left two police officers seriously injured.

“[We] are looking for other people involved with the case,” Lai said, adding that there was “enough evidence” for more arrests.

The seven accused join another four men charged with similar offenses on Monday for allegedly throwing rocks during the protests.

Thousands of garment workers from Bavet’s Manhattan and Tai Seng SEZs began striking last week, demanding next year’s minimum wage for the sector be raised to $148 rather than the $140 set by the government in October.

The apparently leaderless protests climaxed on Tuesday, after which authorities ordered workers to stay home for two days.

They also pledged to release on bail the four men charged on Monday, though the group remained in jail as of last night, according to their defence lawyer, Heng Bun.

Yesterday, Nouth Bopinnaroath, a provincial coordinator for rights group Licadho, said about 50 protesters had returned to work.

However, Ken Loo, secretary-general of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia, said the number was higher.

“Workers in all factories but one are back at work, and in most factories the attendance is at least 80 per cent,” Loo said.

Additional reporting by Shaun Turton.

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