Kompong Cham Court Releases Five Arrested at Strike Protest

The Kompong Cham Provincial Court on Monday released five of the 10 people who were arrested Saturday after clashes between police and about 1,000 sacked workers from the Taiwanese-owned Juhui Footwear factory.

Cambodian Labor Confederation legal officer Kim Socheat, who is representing the 10 people arrested at the Choeung Prey district factory, said that the release came after the court did not find enough proof against the five, who include workers, truck drivers and union officials.

“Deputy provincial prosecutor Chiv Chandara questioned my clients one by one today but has not charged them yet,” Mr. Socheat said by telephone. “Five among the 10 people arrested were released back home after the court did not find enough evidence to inculpate them.

“The five others were sent to be detained in custody at the provincial police station and will continue to be questioned more tomorrow,” Mr. Socheat said.

Those released were Phoeun Phal, 30; Bun Sreyne, 31; Thoeun Bunthan, 28; Chea Reach, 20; and Pot Bunthon, 24, according to Mr. Socheat.

Still detained are Khun Sokhom, 31; Mon Sarem, 29; Bien Sarim, 35; Neth Pisey, 22; and Kang Savuth, 24.

The 10 were arrested on suspicion of incitement, causing violence and damaging company property.

Kompong Cham provincial deputy police chief Choem Senghung confirmed Mr. Socheat’s account of the release of the five but declined to comment further.

About 1,000 workers turned out at the Juhui Footwear factory on Saturday morning to protest their factory’s decision on September 16 to sack them along with 4,000 others who had ignored a court injunction to stop striking.

Juhui Footwear later rehired 3,000 of the workers but refused to rehire the other 2,000, who claim they were blacklisted due to their affiliation with the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union (CCAWDU).

The protest on Saturday turned violent when Juhui Footwear administrative director Teng Sambath posted a list of 72 new hires on the factory’s front gate and riot police tried to confiscate the protesters’ audio equipment.

Licadho provincial rights monitor Khon Khoy said the violence came to a halt when a police officer fired his gun into the air twice, causing the protesters to flee.

CCAWDU member and former factory employee Khia Chanthorn said most of the 1,000 workers who turned out on Saturday had not returned to the protest Monday.

Only about 300 people turned out, he said.

“I went to the protest for a few hours today but some other workers stayed at home because they were afraid of being arrested and their parents did not allow them to join after the police attacked us on Saturday,” he said.

“Even if the other workers are scared of being arrested, we will never give up our demands.”

Bum Born, another provincial deputy police chief, said police were still posted in front of the factory in case violence breaks out again.

“We are still keeping our intervention forces there because hundred of workers are continuing to protest in front of the factory entrance,” Mr. Born said. “We did not come to threaten them, but we came to prevent violence and to protect public order and company property.”

Mon Sros, 34, the older sister of Mon Saren, a worker and CCAWDU representative who remains detained, said her sister did not take part in any violence at the factory.

“The authorities are taking the side of the company. They’re [using] excuses to arrest her and other workers who are only demanding pay and some benefits,” she said.

sokhean@cambodiadaily.com

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