Nineteen NagaWorld casino employees were detained Tuesday afternoon as police attempted to break up a protest of more than 500 workers who had picketed in front of the casino for the past six days, demanding the company increase their salaries.
“Nineteen of us were arrested, including two union leaders,” said Sokh Mulika, a representative of the protesters, adding that all detainees had been released by Tuesday evening.
The workers had been striking non-violently since Thursday, asking for a wage increase from $80 to $150 per month.
But Tuesday’s peaceful protest turned somewhat violent after about 150 municipal police officers and NagaWorld security guards surrounded the group as they sat in Hun Sen Park across the street from the casino, forcibly removing some of them.
Phnom Penh deputy governor Khuong Sreng justified the use of force, saying it was a last resort after unsuccessful negotiations.
“This morning, we asked the workers’ representatives to negotiate with the company, but they said they couldn’t do that. I didn’t want this to happen, but there was no choice. It causes public disorder,” he said.
Across the city at about the same time, four people were injured when about 50 residents from Phnom Penh’s Boeng Kak community clashed with about 100 riot police and security guards in front of the Royal Palace, said Tep Vanny, a representative of the residents.
Authorities stopped the group as they attempted to submit a petition to Queen Mother Norodom Monineath, asking her to release jailed activist Yorm Bopha, who is accused of playing a role in the assault of two tuk-tuk drivers.
“I couldn’t believe that police abused us at the palace because it’s the Queen’s birthday, and we just wanted to submit a petition to her to intervene in the release of Bopha,” Ms. Vanny said, adding that a palace official came out about 20 minutes after the clash and took the petition.