Factory Protest Turns Violent; 11 Detained

Eleven workers were detained by police Tuesday after more than 1,000 striking factory workers scuffled with police, witnesses and police said.

The workers were protesting for higher salaries in front of the Taiwanese-owned Roo Hsing Garment Factory Ltd in Phnom Penh’s Russei Keo district. But guards broke up the rally by taking away the workers’ megaphone.

Laborers responded by throwing rocks and breaking glass at the factory, according to Yeng Marady, deputy director of national police.

Police wearing helmets and carrying shields then used electric batons to strike some of the workers, 11 of whom were briefly detained for questioning, witnesses said. Several of the workers were reportedly bleeding.

The workers also claimed that authorities fired an estimated seven to 10 bullets in the air to intimidate the workers.

A police official said arrests were made because police believed members of a youth gang may have infiltrated the workers and were trying to stir up trouble.

The official said the 11 were released after the factory owners identified them as workers and not gang members.

The workers said they were protesting monthly salaries of $30. Under the country’s labor law, factory workers are to receive at least $40 a month.

After the protest, about 200 of the workers went to the home of opposition politician Sam Rainsy, who has helped organize the country’s trade unions. He led the protesters to the nearby US Embassy, where five representatives met with a US official to talk about their problems.

Tuesday’s demonstration follows the detention on Sunday of eight union representatives who were distributing pamphlets in front of a garment factory south of Phnom Penh.

A group of people who went to secure the union workers’ release were surrounded by police who cocked their weapons, Sam Rainsy and a human rights worker said.

The union workers were passing out literature on workers’ rights outside the Concept Garment Factory on Route 2.

Police said no one was arrested and denied that weapons were used in an intimidating manner.

(Additional reporting by Jeff Hodson and Agence France-Presse)

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