Police Allow Unauthorized Union March

More than 300 union members participated in a Labor Day march and rally Saturday morning that was not endorsed by the government—one of just a few public rallies Phnom Penh au­thorities have allowed since last July’s elections.

The marchers gathered at 8 am at the headquarters of the Free Trade Union of Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia, whose members were joined by those of the Cambodian Inde­pendent Teachers’ Association.

They walked to the newsstand at the corner of Sihanouk Boule­vard and Street 51, where former Free Trade Union president and Sam Rainsy Party activist Chea Vichea was shot dead Jan 22.

There, they laid wreaths and lit incense.

Unlike Chea Vichea’s Jan 25 funeral procession, in which thousands turned out for one of the cap­ital’s largest displays of bereave­ment, no tears were shed.

At least 100 military police and municipal intervention police monitored the procession from near the Independence Mon­ument. They did not interfere, despite an order from Prime Minister Hun Sen that Labor Day activities take place at private facilities.

“The police officials did not crack down because this was not a confrontational pro­cession. They held it be­cause of Labor Day,” Moung Khem, municipal dep­uty police chief, said Sunday.

“Because the City did not give them permission, this was a slight mistake by the workers, but the length of the march and the gathering was short, so police allowed it to take place,” he said.

Standing at the spot where his brother was slain, Free Trade Union board member Chea Mony demanded that police ar­rest the true perpetrators, a call echoed by CITA president Rong Chhun.

Police arrested two men for the killing of Chea Vichea in late Jan­uary, but human rights organizations, labor unions and opposition party leaders have voiced doubts over the suspects’ culpability.

The marchers continued to the park between the National As­sembly and Wat Botum, where City Hall had expressly denied them permission to gather.

Chea Mony spoke again, this time against factory management he ac­cused of exploitation and persecution. He said factories are terminating workers who join unions or do not volunteer to work overtime.

Rong Chhun followed, saying that teachers’ $30 per month state salaries compel many of them to turn to corruption to support their families. “As long as teachers are not given raises, education in Cam­bodia will not be improved,” he said.

Meanwhile, Minister of Social Affairs Ith Sam Heng went on state television on Saturday to praise the growth of Cambodian garment manufacturing, which he said now employs 200,000 people at 320 factories.


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