Eight factory workers were injured on Monday at a special economic zone (SEZ) in Kandal province after being attacked by several dozen men, including SEZ security guards, wielding steel pipes and meat cleavers, according to union officials.
The attack occurred as roughly 600 garment factory employees attempted to board trucks to Phnom Penh for a protest against the firing of a union representative, according to Seang Rithy, president of the Cambodian Labor Solidarity Union (CLSU).
He said the workers from the Star Light Apparel Manufacturing factory inside the 7NG Special Economic Zone in Ksach Kandal district had been walking toward the vehicles when about 10 uniformed security guards and 30 hired thugs set upon them.
“The workers were preparing to get into the trucks, but about 40 gangsters and security guards hired by the 7NG Special Economic Zone were driving motorbikes and blocked the path of the workers and attacked them with cleavers, steel pipes and belts, and then they drove away,” Mr. Rithy said.
Eight of the workers were injured during the attack, including Sem Sith, 27, who was hacked in the back with a meat cleaver and is now recovering at a private clinic, Mr. Rithy said, adding that a car and two motorbikes belonging to the unionists were damaged by the assailants.
The workers had been planning to stage a protest in Phnom Penh over an ongoing dispute with Star Light Apparel, which began in early January when the factory refused to renew the contract of popular CLSU representative Try Set- ra, he explained. Seven more workers were fired after the factory accused them of inciting workers to strike in retaliation, he added.
“The company would always accuse Try Setra of inciting workers to hold protests when owners would put pressure on workers and make them work long hours,” Mr. Rithy said.
Phorn Neuk, 28, a CLSU representative who works at the factory, said he was one of those injured in the attack.
“About 40 hired gangsters and security guards from the 7NG Special Economic Zone climbed into the trucks and attacked the workers. I was also punched in the face two or three times,” Mr. Neuk said.
“We are now collecting evidence to file a complaint at the provincial police station on Wednesday, accusing the factory’s owner and his accomplices of causing injury and destroying private property,” he added.
Factory and SEZ officials could not be reached for comment.
Din Chandy, an official from the provincial labor department, confirmed that a fight took place at the SEZ between factory workers and security guards but said he was unsure of the details. He said a Star Light Apparel representative had told him that nobody was seriously injured.
“I am now working with the factory’s manager to collect information about the reason for the fight. The factory’s manager told me he did not know the reason for the fight because the clash happened far away from the factory,” Mr. Chandy said.
He added that labor officials would mediate a meeting between unionists and factory representatives at the Labor Ministry in Phnom Penh today.