Ten Wounded in Fresh Protest, Clash in Cambodian Capital

2014-01-26
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A security officer tries to detain a woman protester outside Freedom Park in Phnom Penh, Jan. 26, 2014.
RFA

At least 10 people were injured in the Cambodian capital Sunday when security forces clashed with protesting activists, trade union leaders, and workers demanding higher wages and the release of 23 people arrested in a recent bloody government crackdown.

In a separate incident, Prime Minister Hun Sen's party supporters mobbed the headquarters of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) in Kampong Cham province east of the country, preventing CNRP members from attending a forum, according to opposition officials.    

The protest outside Freedom Park in Phnom Penh on Sunday was in defiance of a ban on demonstrations in the capital imposed about three weeks ago after a violent crackdown on a strike by garment workers demanding higher minimum wages and opposition rallies calling on Prime Minister Hun Sen to resign.

The clash occurred when security forces set up roadblocks and prevented the scores of protesters from entering Freedom Park, which had been the base for daily anti-government demonstrations by CNRP supporters until they were violently dispersed earlier this month.

Protesters threw rocks, shoes, water bottles, and sticks at the police and Phnom Penh Municipal Council security forces who retaliated by hitting them with batons and tasers, eyewitnesses said.

Local rights group Licadho said that at least 10 people from both sides were injured in the clash, the first  since the government shot dead four people during a Jan. 3 strike by garment workers demanding higher minimum wages.

During the clash Sunday, workers said they had confiscated slingshots with homemade metal balls that they claimed had been used to "shoot" at the protestors.

Mammoth rally shelved

Union representatives said plans to have a mammoth workers rally on Sunday had to be shelved due to the extraordinary security measures imposed in the capital.

Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Confederation of Unions, said he was "sad" that the authorities used force to prevent workers from gathering to push their campaign for higher wages and call for the freedom of the 23 protesters who are being kept in a remote prison facility.

"Freedom in Cambodia has declined to zero," he said. "Freedom of assembly and speech are being restricted by the authorities."

Coalition of Cambodia Apparel Workers Democratic Union President Ath Thon called for a resumption of tripartite negotiations between unions, the government, and the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC), which represents factory owners, to discuss prospects for increasing minimum wages.

The unions are demanding that wages be doubled to U.S. $160 a month. The government clampdown earlier this month had forced an end to strikes and the return to factories by thousands of protesting workers.

"We are hoping to have talks soon," Ath Thon said. "We must use this chance to resolve this issue so we won't have any more problems."

CNRP gathering disrupted

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CPP supporters hold anti-CNRP protests in Kampong Cham province, Jan 26, 2013. (RFA Photo)

Meanwhile in Kampong Cham, ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) supporters, armed with sticks and protected by security forces, tried to disrupt a CNRP gathering, CNRP deputy president Kem Sokha said.

He accused Hun Sen of using his party's supporters to provoke clashes with CNRP supporters.

"This strategy is a threat against the constitution," Kem Sokha said.

Government spokesman Phay Siphan rejected the charges, saying the CPP supporters wanted to display their support for Prime minister Hun Sen.

"CPP members are adhering to their rights to protect their votes and support Hun Sen to be the prime minister," he said.

Hun Sen had recently urged his supporters to be prepared to counter CNRP protests calling for his resignation, saying the opposition action had "characteristics of a coup.”

The opposition had called on Hun Sen to resign and hold fresh elections after allegations of fraud and other irregularities in the July 2013 elections in which his CPP was declared victor by the government-appointed election body, which has dismissed calls for an independent probe into the polls.

Reported by RFA's Khmer Service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.

Comments (6)
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Spottagus

from Massachusetts, USA

Hun Sen and their followers are retard brains. The more they educated, the more stupid they are. Maybe they are so good to be a dumb educator and as stupid, retarded, and cruelty to the blood and bones.

Jan 27, 2014 06:25 PM

Spottagus

from Massachusetts, USA

I have said many times that Cambodia is the state-of-mufia that ruled by a pure communist which left over by Khmer Rouge and mixed model of Vietcong. Their foundation is as solid and as strong as trojen virus. The rules designed to protect the riches, power, and tyrannize the weak and corrupted the constitution.

Jan 27, 2014 06:08 PM

Anonymous Reader

The majority of Rfa in khmer section are work for hun sen, so usa must to care about this story.

Jan 27, 2014 09:15 AM

RFA Editor

Editor's Note: As noted in our mission statement, RFA adheres to rigorous journalistic standards of objectivity, accuracy, and fairness.

Jan 27, 2014 12:37 PM

Anonymous Reader

A quote from The Cambodia Daily....'City Hall spokesman Long Dimanche said the rally would not be allowed to proceed, adding that demonstrations “make Cambodia look bad and cause a lot of anarchy in society.” “We are going to use our strategy to stop them in case they try to make this [demonstration] happen illegally,” Mr. Dimanche said.'

Oh, killing your own people doesn't look bad? Show people the law that peaceful demonstration is illegal? How much did this guy pay for his position in the government?

Jan 26, 2014 07:31 PM

Anonymous Reader

"Government spokesman Phay Siphan...says the CPP supporters wanted to display their support for Prime minister Hun Sen."

What do the CPP supporters want? More corruption and less freedom and human rights? More evictions and less pay for teachers and garment workers? Do these people want their children to continue to live under Hun Sen dictatorship?

Jan 26, 2014 07:26 PM

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