Six Cambodian union leaders on Tuesday each received suspended 2 1/2-year prison terms in connection with labor protests about five years ago in which four garment workers were killed and around 20 others hurt.
The Phnom Penh Municipal Court found the labor leaders guilty on four charges involving violence and property damage at protests on the outskirts of Phnom Penh. The court also ordered the six to jointly pay in compensation of 35 million riels ($8,750) to two policemen said to have been victims of protest violence.
The relatively lenient sentences appeared to be part of an effort by Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government to soften its image as an authoritarian regime. It has faced sanctions from Western nations that accuse it of suppressing human and democratic rights, pointing especially to this year’s general election which they charged was neither free nor fair because the only credible opposition party had been dissolved and its candidates barred from politics.