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Workers protest over ‘RCAF’ factory guards

Workers stand outside the Pou Yuen shoe factory in Phnom Penh’s Sen Sok district, where they claim hired guards (centre, black jacket) prevented them from entering the premises. Photo supplied
Workers stand outside the Pou Yuen shoe factory in Phnom Penh’s Sen Sok district, where they claim hired guards (centre, black jacket) prevented them from entering the premises. Photo supplied

Workers protest over ‘RCAF’ factory guards

Roughly 100 garment workers protested again in front of Pou Yuen Enterprise Ltd yesterday amid allegations that the shoe factory hired Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) soldiers to act as security guards for the company.

The workers have been in conflict with the shoe factory since at least October over the company’s decision to offer only short-term contracts.

One uniformed soldier could be seen sitting in the company security booth at the protest yesterday, but disappeared shortly after reporters arrived.

Police are also investigating a confrontation between factory security guards and workers last Thursday in which one guard allegedly threatened workers with a gun.

Despite pictures of the man’s RCAF motorcycle licence plate and passport identifying him as a soldier being broadcast on local media outlets, Toek Thla Commune Police Chief Sok Phal said police are still unsure whether the man was a soldier because he fled the scene.

“I do not know [if he’s a soldier] because the factory has hired security for themselves. We do not know where they are from,” Phal said.

“He had not fired the gun yet,” he added. “The workers just saw the weapon and got scared.”

Reached yesterday, Pou Yuen Enterprise representative Hsiao Tsai Yuan denied that the factory had hired soldiers for security. When asked why they were present at the protest, he said he was busy and declined to comment further.

Factory worker In Ham, 33, said the security guards had been rough with protesters. “When they hire soldiers like this, it makes it difficult for us,” Ham said. “We find it hard to protest.”

Ham, who has worked at the factory for seven years, said workers would continue to demonstrate until they received “proper compensation”.

The Arbitration Council is expected to hand down a decision on the dispute on Thursday.

Additional reporting by Daphne Chen

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