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Tempers flare at bus protest

Former bus drivers for Sorya bus company protest at the Sorya bus terminal in Phnom Penh
Former bus drivers for Sorya bus company protest at the Sorya bus terminal in Phnom Penh yesterday. The dispute started after 17 drivers were fired for attempting to form a union. Tat Oudom

Tempers flare at bus protest

Resolution continued to elude 17 former bus drivers for the Phnom Penh Sorya Transportation Company yesterday when a demonstration at the company’s headquarters was roughly dispersed by company security after the ex-staffers tried to block buses from leaving.

Sambath Vorn, president of the union whose founding resulted in the dismissal of the aggrieved drivers, said yesterday that three protesters and one staff member of the Cambodia Labour Confederation were slightly injured in the scuffle.

“We will file a complaint against the company security guards who used violence against us,” Vorn said. “[The guards] chased us to protest at Freedom Park, but we did not go because we were fired, so we have to protest at the company.”

The dispute between the 17 former drivers and the company began in April when they were fired for attempting to form a union. The company has ignored an Arbitration Council decision ordering Sorya Transportation to reinstate 15 of the drivers and pay the other two back wages.

The drivers were joined yesterday by about 50 people from three other unions, who blocked traffic in front of the Sorya Transportation offices and attempted to prevent buses from leaving over the protestations of incensed passengers.

One passenger who declined to be named said the protest had forced her to take a taxi to Kampong Chhnang.

“I am not angry at the company, but I am angry at the protesters that interrupted the passengers,” she said. “They’re not doing the passengers any favours, even if they are angry with the company’s owner.”

Sorya Transportation general manager Chan Sophanna said yesterday that he was preparing to file a complaint with the Phnom Penh Municipal Court today or Wednesday over the protesters’ actions.

“I think they used their rights [to protest] to cross a line,” he said, adding that security guards had been injured, one of them seriously. “They have rights, but they cannot block and interrupt my business. What they are doing is illegal.”

Daun Penh District Deputy Governor Sok Penhvuth also visited the scene to tell protesters to clear the road.

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