Court Will Summon Workers, Owners Over Bavet City Riots

Factory owners and four jailed garment workers will be summoned today to appear at the Svay Rieng Provincial Court in the coming days to provide “clarification” over a series of walkouts and riots that struck two special economic zones (SEZs) in Bavet City last month, a judge said.

The four workers were arrested on December 17 and 18, the second and third day of the protests. Demonstrations ended on December 22 after the provincial government promised to release the group on bail in exchange for local union leaders—who claimed no part in the industrial action—calming the workers and getting them back to their stations.

“Today, we are preparing to summon all related parties, including the owners of some of the factories that sustained the most damage,” Investigating Judge Tith Sothy Borachhard said on Monday when asked if the four would be released. “The summonses will be issued [this] morning.”

The four—along with seven others subsequently arrested, including six truck drivers who transport workers—have been charged with incitement, intentional violence and property damage.

Although the unions have seemingly held up their end of the deal, with business returning to normal at the SEZs, the provincial government’s promise of release must first be processed by the courts, according to the judge.

“The clarifications would be part of the input the court needs for such a consideration and so there will still be things to do based on judicial procedures,” Judge Sothy Borachhard said. “We cannot make a decision now.”

The judge said the questioning “will be related to the violent strikes, such as what was damaged…what they acknowledge has happened or has not happened; whether there are any solutions or not; the cause of the problem, and so on.”

He said the questioning would take place next week at the latest.

Heng Bong, a lawyer for the four workers whose release was promised last month, said a formal bail application was submitted on December 24.

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