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!”
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.”
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.