Kandal Garment Workers’ Protest Over Bonuses Turns Ugly

Two people were hurt Thursday in violence sparked by a protest staged by more than 3,000 employees of the Yung Wah garment factory in Kandal province, Takhmau district, who were told Wednesday they would not receive their annual Chinese New Year bonus.

Chheng Sophors, an investigator for local rights group Licadho, said the protest started out calmly, but later turned violent.

“After the police tried to crack down on the demonstrators by using [water cannon and smoke gren­ades], the workers fought back, throwing stones at the police and breaking into the guard office near the factory gate,” Chheng Sophors said.

One woman sustained a head injury and another an injured hand, Chheng Sophors added.

Mein Makara, a Kandal province coordinator for the local rights group Adhoc, said the protestors gathered at 7:30 am demanding their New Year bonus of $50.

“The factory said that due to the world economic crisis, the factory is unable to pay workers the $50 bonus,” he said.

Protesting Yung Wah worker Sam Sopheap, 25, said by telephone that she had a financial crisis of her own to worry about.

“Yesterday there was a meeting, and our representative told us that we will not get the bonus because of the economic crisis, and the factory has lost a lot of money,” she said.

“I spent my energy and my blood to work, and I get only $50 dollars a month. I need this money to give to my family,” she added.

Roeun Nara, deputy police chief of Kandal province, said Thursday that his officers used minimal force to quell the holiday bonus protestors.

“The police did not commit any violence with the protestor, but [police officers] were injured by the workers,” he said.

Soum Uypisey, a factory administrative officer, said later that both sides were now working to reach an amicable solution.

“Worker representative and managers are talking and finding a fair solution for both side,” he said.


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