PHNOM PENH - Cambodian riot police fired assault rifles and used
electric batons on Tuesday to break up a protest by 1,300 workers
demanding redundancy payment from a garment factory that shut down last
"We are just shooting into the air to scare them away,"
military policeman Chan Heng told Reuters at the demonstration outside
the South Korean-owned Sam-Han Fabrics Co. factory on the northern
outskirts of the capital.
The factory closed in January, but in
an unprecedented attempt to ease tension in an industry that employs
some 240,000 people, the government stepped in to lend the company $1.2
million to pay workers' final monthly wages, officials said.
Khieu Savouth, Cambodia's chief labour dispute negotiator, said the
money only covered outstanding monthly wages and not the severance
payment to which some of the workers would have been entitled.
"They should go through the courts to solve this problem," he said.
With the expiry this year of preferential trade quotas for small
countries such as Cambodia under the Multi-Fibre Agreement, its garment
factories are coming under pressure from cut-price giants China and
Even though the war-scarred country has built a
reputation as a relative haven of labour rights and acceptable working
conditions, protests are increasingly common.
clashes, which appeared to have been brewing for two days, workers
threw bricks and rocks at police although no officers were wounded,
One worker injured his toe running away from a police baton charge, and another was arrested, police said.
"They should not treat us like this when we are just protesting to get
the factory to pay our final wages," said 30-year-old worker Sor
Samnang, rallying protesters with a loudspeaker.
The company was not available for comment.
At least 20 garment factories have closed in and around Phnom Penh in
the last four months, putting several thousand women out of work, and
possibly pushing them into the sex industry, the United Nations said at
a recent seminar.
"This is a concern for us," Commerce Minister
Cham Prasidh told Reuters. "They used to send money home to their
parents. Now some of them have lost jobs. The question is where they
Cambodian officials remain optimistic that entry
last year into the World Trade Organisation will lead to a long-term
increase in exports, and not just in the garment sector.
industry is the impoverished country's biggest foreign exchange earner,
accounting for around 80 percent of its $1.4 billion official annual
This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.