Police Back Factory Manager Who Ran Over Protesting Workers

The manager of a garment factory in Phnom Penh drove his car into a crowd of protesting workers on Saturday afternoon, according to a union official, though a police official said the manager had been surrounded and was only trying to turn away.

Yem Sochet, the administration manager of International Fashion Royal garment factory in Pur Senchey district’s Choam Chao commune, was accused of driving his car straight into a crowd of protesters standing in front of the factory, Worker Friendship Union Federation president Sieng Sambath said.

“He already drove his car from the parking lot but headed back very fast after hearing insults thrown by the protesters,” Mr. Sambath said. “His intention was to run over the union officials, but the workers gathered around. There were about 30 to 40 people standing there, but he just drove directly into the crowd.”

Mr. Sambath added that the garment workers had gathered on Saturday to protest for the third consecutive day. The workers are seeking 1,000 riel for lunch, higher pay and the reinstatement of two staff members who had been fired.

According to Mr. Sambath and police officials, multiple people were in the car with Mr. Sochet.

Most protesters were able to escape the crash, but three people were injured, including one woman who sustained serious injuries to her arm, Mr. Sambath said, adding that only one of the three had been allowed to file a police complaint.

Mr. Sochet attempted to flee the scene after hitting the workers, he added.

The union will enter into negotiations with the factory owners today, he said. More than 20 workers said they were hit in the crash, and are demanding $5,000 collectively as compensation.

Choam Chao commune police chief Theng Kosal refuted some of the claims made by the workers and union official, denying that the crash was intentional.

Mr. Kosal said the driver had gone out for lunch and was trying to get back into the factory when the workers surrounded his car. The driver was not attempting to hurt anyone but simply turned away, hitting a woman on the side of her body, Mr. Kosal said. He claimed the woman’s arm injury was not severe.

Deputy commune police chief Nhor Serey said Mr. Sochet was arrested late on Saturday and released on Sunday after spending a night in jail. He added that documents were being compiled and would be sent to the court today.

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