Police destroyed banners and confiscated a loudspeaker as heated protests continued outside the Capitol Tours bus company headquarters in Phnom Penh on Thursday, with more than 40 drivers demanding their jobs back.
Five drivers were fired in July, leading dozens of their colleagues to strike and demonstrate in protest of the decision. In November, 35 more drivers were fired over continued attempts to organize a union. Earlier this month, the Arbitration Council decided that only three of the 40 fired workers should be reinstated.
Protesting for a second straight day, the drivers arrived at the company’s head office in Prampi Makara district at about 8 a.m. in an attempt to persuade bosses to enter negotiations, but were blocked by about 15 police officers. The protesters then attempted to attach a loudspeaker to the top of a tuk-tuk but the police, armed with riot shields and batons, dragged it down and confiscated it before ripping apart banners.
After the brief altercation, the protesters decided to march to City Hall to request assistance in facilitating negotiations, also airing other grievances relating to the Capitol Tours, including the accusation it paid tuk-tuk drivers to incite a brawl during a protest in July.
“We came to City Hall to ask [the police] not to confiscate our loudspeaker and for the company to stop ordering tuk-tuk drivers to attack us during our protests against the company. City Hall, please ask the company to negotiate with us,” Ean Kim Horn, secretary-general of Cambodia Transportation Workers Federation, said outside City Hall.
The bus drivers were left frustrated, however, after being told by an official that City Hall would not assist the protesters.
“They asked that we stop protesting in public and impacting the public order, so they requested we demonstrate at Freedom Park,” Mr. Kim Horn said, adding that protests would continue outside the company’s headquarters today.
Contacted after the march, City Hall spokesman Long Dimanche said the dispute had nothing to do with municipal authorities.
“We don’t have the right to intervene for them; that is the Ministry of Labor’s responsibility,” Mr. Dimanche said. “If they continue to protest without asking permission, the authorities will take action.”