Eight union representatives handing out leaflets in front of a garment factory on Sunday were detained and questioned by police, according to a union spokesman.
Several people who subsequently came to secure the release of the labor leaders, including opposition politician Sam Rainsy and a UN monitor, were surrounded by a group of policemen who cocked their weapons, Sam Rainsy said.
The arrest took place Sunday morning while representatives of the Free Trade Union of the Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia were passing out leaflets on workers’ rights in front of the Concept Garment Factory on Route 2 to Takhmau, said union spokesman Chea Vichea.
Police arrived at the scene, tore up the pamphlets and took the representatives back to police headquarters, where they were detained for about two hours, Chea Vichea said.
He added that police wanted to know why they had been distributing literature without government permission.
Sam Rainsy, an adviser to the union, said he was called and went to the police station in Takhmau with a UN monitor and several human rights workers.
While the human rights workers were inside the police station negotiating for the union leaders’ release, a truck of 10 heavily armed police arrived, he said.
“We were surrounded and heard this noise, of putting bullets into the gun barrels,” Sam Rainsy said.
UN human rights workers are investigating.
Meanchey District Police Chief Lim Hell confirmed Monday that police did come to the factory Sunday morning and confiscated the pamphlets but he denied that anyone was arrested and said only three people had been questioned.
He also denied that any weapons were used in a threatening manner. “If they report that, it is not true,” he said.