Phnom Penh. 23 persons that were arrested during the violent crackdown on the Unionists’ strike and the Opposition rally last weekend, among them five Unionist leaders and a land activist from Boeung Kak Lake, are hold at the Kompung Cham CC3 isolated prison, reported local human right defender Licadho in its last statement:
“At 10 am, Sem Sakola, a Phnom Penh investigation judge, called LICADHO lawyers to confirm that six clients arrested and charged during the violent crackdown of garment protesters in the Canadia Industrial Area on Veng Sreng Road last week are being held in CC3 prison.” (Licadho, 2014, para. 1)
On Monday, Licadho denounced secrecy over their retention after a brief appearance before the Court: “Family members, lawyers and independent medical professionals have been denied information about the location of detention of 23 people arrested during recent brutal crackdowns in Phnom Penh.” (Licadho, 2014) The group included a 17 years old boy, Yon Chea, while they were allowed to receive medical attention only until Wednesday.
Different human rights organizations such as Human Rights Watch, called for “an immediate, unconditional release of any peaceful protesters.”
Last Friday morning, January 3, security forces ended in a violent way the garment factories’ strike at the Canadia Industrial Park, Phnom Penh downtown. According to reports, at least five persons died and many others were wounded, although some victims suggested that there were more persons killed during the police assault, something that is not fully confirmed.
The High Commissioner for Human Rights, Rupert Colville, said in a statement in Geneva last Tuesday that is “deeply alarmed by the disproportionate use of force by law enforcement officials in responding to demonstrations.” He urged also from the Cambodian authorities “to launch a prompt and thorough investigation and to ensure full accountability of members of security forces found to have used disproportionate and excessive force.”
About 60% of workers were back to their factories on Monday, reported Ken Loo, secretary general of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia, who explained to Asian Correspondent that the clash began “because the rioters had failed to listen to verbal warnings and further engaged in violent activities including attacking the authorities and destroying private property.” (Rodas, 2014, para. 6)
Garment factories’ workers are demanding an increase of their minimum wage to 160 US dollars, but the Ministry of Labor put it first to 95 and then to 100 US dollars, much inferior to what Unionists asked, going to strike on December 24. Several workers were fired or suspended this week for participating in the strike, for example at the Svay Rieng Province’s Manhattan Special Economic Zone where 200 persons lost their job. (Phnom Penh Post, 2014, para.1)