Amid Riot Police, Violence Breaks Out at Strike

Demonstrating workers hurled rocks at a garment factory’s windows Wednesday as riot police stood by, bringing tensions surrounding a three-day strike over wages to their highest levels yet, factory and police officials said.

Russei Keo district Police Chief Ly Lay said that workers at the Mighti Spectra Knitting Factory threw rocks at the plant, shattering windows in the factory and a nearby van.

A workers’ representative, who asked not to be named, said the laborers were upset because factory management had refused to increase the price paid to workers for sewing a dozen pieces of clothing. Workers have requested that their “dozens” wages jump from $12.60 to $32.

“We broke down the window because our demand was not met and police pointed guns at us,” the 31-year-old worker said.

Ly Lay denied that police pointed guns at the workers, saying that officers only prevented them from destroying property.

Mighti Spectra factory administration manager Suong Ratana Thy said the price of dozens could not be increased to more than $30 because the wage would surpass the cost of the input product.

“We would like the workers to decrease the demanded price of the dozens,” he said.

Five truckloads of shield-wielding police were called to the Russei Keo district factory grounds to prevent the aggressive demonstration from snowballing into a violent protest, Ly Lay said. He added that at least 70 policemen were deployed to hold back striking workers.

Ly Lay said workers were guilty of hurling rocks at police.

Morm Nhim, National Inde­pen­dent Federation Textile Union of Cambodia president, said workers became violent when police hit three of their representatives.

Negotiations will continue today, she said, and likely would produce an agreement, since the demands of management and workers were drawing closer. Bargaining sessions already have increased the dozens wage from $12.60 to $22.60, Morm Nhim said, adding that the rate likely would increase enough to appease workers.

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