Protesters Call for Release of Imprisoned Bus Driver, Activist

About 500 people gathered outside Phnom Penh’s Prey Sar prison on Tuesday to demand the release of form­er Capitol Tours bus driver Nan Vanna and la­bor activist Ros Si­phay, who were arrested two weeks ago for participating in a demonstration against the company.

The group, comprised mainly of Cambodian Labor Confed­eration (CLC) members, arrived at the prison in Dangkao district at 9 a.m., where security guards quickly erected a makeshift razorwire barricade to keep the protesters at bay as they chanted “So Unjust! So unjust! Please arrest the perpetrators and release the victims!”

Cambodian Labor Confederation members protest the incarceration of former Capitol Tours bus driver Nan Vanna and labor activist Ros Siphay outside Prey Sar prison in Phnom Penh on Tuesday morning. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)
Cambodian Labor Confederation members protest the incarceration of former Capitol Tours bus driver Nan Vanna and labor activist Ros Siphay outside Prey Sar prison in Phnom Penh on Tuesday morning. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

The two men were arrested and charged following a February 6 pro­test outside Capitol Tours’ com­pany headquarters, where former bus drivers and their supporters from the CLC have been protesting sporadically for eight months, alleging they were dismissed be­cause they at­tempted to unionize.

A group of tuk-tuk drivers be­came enraged by the demonstrators’ attempt to stop a bus leaving the depot in Prampi Makara district, attacking them with metal rods, wooden sticks and hammers, ac­cording to rights group Licadho, which released video footage of the melee. Four labor leaders were also charged, but not arrested, over the incident.

CLC President Ath Thorn, who is among those charged, led Tuesday’s protest. He heaped criticism on the Cambo­dia for Confederation Development Association (CCDA), which represents the tuk-tuk drivers who carried out the attack, and again accused them of being in cahoots with Cap­itol Tours.

“The incident happened because Cap­itol bosses discriminated against the union,” he said. “Mem­bers of the [CCDA] co­operated with the company to attack.”

 Cambodian Labor Confederation members protest the incarceration of former Capitol Tours bus driver Nan Vanna and la­bor activist Ros Siphay outside Phnom Penh’s Prey Sar prison yesterday morning. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

Cambodian Labor Confederation members protest the incarceration of former Capitol Tours bus driver Nan Vanna and la­bor activist Ros Siphay outside Phnom Penh’s Prey Sar prison yesterday morning. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

From the prison, about 100 people traveled to the Phnom Penh Mu­nicipal Court in the afternoon to sup­port Mr. Vanna, the arrested driver, while he was questioned on charges of intentional violence, obstructing public officials and obstructing a public road.

Horn Vibol, deputy Prampi Makara district police chief, said the vi­o­lence earlier this month was un­for­tunate but could not have been pre­vented. When asked why police still have not arrested any members of the tuk-tuk association, he declined to comment.

Kim Socheat, the defense lawyer for both Mr. Vanna and Mr. Si­phay, said Tuesday that the court re­jected his request for both men to be released on bail last week.

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