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Veng Sreng anniversary muted

Workers curate a wall of photos documenting the violent suppression of the Veng Sreng protests in 2014 to mark its anniversary yesterday in Phnom Penh.
Workers curate a wall of photos documenting the violent suppression of the Veng Sreng protests in 2014 to mark its anniversary yesterday in Phnom Penh. Pha Lina

Veng Sreng anniversary muted

Only one major union commemorated the third anniversary of the fatal 2014 wage protests on Veng Sreng Boulevard yesterday, with other unions saying they were “too busy” to mark the day.

The Independent Democracy of Informal Economy Association (IDEA), a union for informal workers, yesterday held a religious ceremony at its offices to mark the anniversary of wage protests that were violently shut down at the capital’s Veng Sreng Boulevard and the Yakjin garment factory on National Road 4.

Workers took to the streets in December 2013 to protest a minimum wage hike from $80 to $95, but the protest was ended by military and police forces on January 3, when they fired live ammunition at workers on Veng Sreng, killing at least four, with another worker – last seen with bloody chest wounds – missing and presumed dead.

“Today is a reminder of the suffering at Yakjin after the brutal violence used by Special Command Unit 911,” said Vorn Pov, president of IDEA. “It is clear who beat us, but they still got away.”

Pov was badly beaten while trying to ease tensions between workers and security personnel outside Yakjin factory, and was subsequently charged, along with nine others, for intentional violence.

Reached yesterday, three other major unions – Free Trade Union, Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union (CCADWU) and Cambodian Alliance of Trade Unions – said they were too busy to attend the event or hold their own commemorations.

“We were not allowed to hold events at Veng Sreng, so we did not plan anything,” said CCADWU president Ath Thorn, referring to a City Hall directive preventing any commemorative events on the arterial street.

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