Factory Fire Suspects Caught, More Wanted

Three men and one woman have been detained and eight others are wanted by police in connection with Monday’s violent demonstration and fire at Gold­fame Enterprises Inter­national Knitters Ltd in Sa’ang district, Kandal province.

The four suspects told police they were part of crowd carrying large sticks during the demonstration, in which hundreds of win­dows were broken after an illegal labor strike turned into a near-riot, Kandal province deputy police chief Tom Vey said. He said they were arrested at different times Thursday.

But Tom Vey said they have not confessed to starting the fire which destroyed the warehouse of the Hong Kong-owned factory. The fire may have begun accidentally after demonstrators started burning car tires and the fire then spread, Kandal province chief prosecutor Chheng Phat said.

The three male suspects are Kien Keun, Than Tal and Chen Savoeun, Tom Vey said. The fe­male suspect is Ban Srey Yeun, he said.

Garment factory officials gave police the names of the four de­tainees and the eight additional suspects, said Tom Vey.

One of the eight suspects is a member of the Sitbo commune council, Tom Vey said. Sam Rainsy Party Secretary-General Eng Chhay Eang said that suspect is Meas Chantara, who Eng Chhay Eang said tried to stop demonstrators from acting violently on Monday. Meas Chan­tara is now hiding in Phnom Penh, Eng Chhay Eang said.

Another local Sam Rainsy Party official, Yui Srey Neang, claimed that a total of six people have been arrested. One of those six was later released, she said.

The protest began as a labor dispute between factory management and workers from the factory’s knitting section. Two weeks ago, workers complained to the company that they were being paid too little for piecework.

Several workers said this week that Monday’s demonstration outside the factory’s gates escalated out of control when one policeman struck a young woman, knocking several of her teeth out.

At the Council of Ministers Friday, ministers appointed a committee headed by Minister of Social Affairs and Labor Ith Sam Heng to investigate the fire.

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