A peaceful Labor Day demonstration of workers calling for better living conditions and independent courts was violently dispersed Thursday morning by district security guards, municipal police and men in plain clothes, who beat protesters, journalists and bystanders with batons, wooden sticks and crude metal poles.
Shortly after 9 a.m., opposition leaders Sam Rainsy, Kem Sokha and Mu Sochua addressed about 700 workers and opposition supporters who had gathered near the Naga Bridge on Norodom Boulevard. After speaking for about 20 minutes, the CNRP group departed down Russian Boulevard.
As the crowd thinned out between the bridge and nearby Wat Phnom, truncheon-wielding security guards set upon the crowd, indiscriminately beating protesters, passersby on motorbikes and journalists filming the violence. The remaining crowd fled to surrounding gardens.
Am Sam Ath, technical supervisor for local rights group Licadho, said that more than 100 Daun Penh district security guards were ordered to attack the protesters.
“I saw with my own eyes five people get beat up and injured,” he said. “But I think that many more people got injured than this number, because they were beating people in different places and at least 100 security guards were involved.”
“Three of [the victims] have asked Licadho for help to get treatment. One was seriously injured on his head and others were wounded on their bodies,” Mr. Sam Ath added.
Numerous photographs and videos posted online show the government forces, some wearing unmarked shirts and trousers, surrounding onlookers seemingly at random and repeatedly bringing down their truncheons on their heads and bodies.
Another demonstration of workers near the National Assembly was pushed away by Chamkar Mon district security guards. Over 500 protesters then marched to CPP headquarters on Norodom Boulevard, delivering a petition listing their demands, before continuing on to CNRP headquarters in Meanchey district, where they delivered the same letter.
Earlier in the morning, the CNRP leaders joined a ceremony on Veng Sreng Street in remembrance of five garment workers who were killed by military police during a violent protest amid nationwide strikes in early January.