Six Truck Drivers Arrested Over Bavet City Riots

Six truck drivers were arrested in the past two days over violent strikes that have effectively shut down two special economic zones (SEZs) in Svay Rieng province’s Bavet City, according to rights group Licadho.

Nouth Bopinnaroath, a coordinator for Licadho, said five drivers were arrested on Wednesday morning after being called to the provincial police station under false pre tenses, while a sixth was apprehended on Thursday.

“Yesterday, five of them were arrested. Initially, they were invited to attend a training session about the land traffic law at the provincial police station, but when they went to attend the training session there, they were arrested,” Mr. Bopinnaroath said.

“Today, another driver was arrested, but I don’t know how he was arrested. However, now they are at the provincial police station waiting for more questioning at the court tomorrow because the questioning has not finished yet,” he added.

Mr. Bopinnaroath named the six detainees as Lok Vichet, 29; Ten Sambath, 28; Keo Pros, 33; Lang Phally, 20; Suos Yeth, 43; and Teav Phalla, 47, adding that he did not know which of them was arrested on Thursday.

Multiple provincial police officials either said they were not aware of the arrests or declined to comment, referring questions to provincial police chief Koeng Khorn, who could not be reached.

The arrests came as the Manhattan and Tai Seng SEZs remained shuttered on Thursday on the orders of the provincial government. The industrial parks have been hit by sporadic and destructive protests that began on December 16, with mobs attempting to encourage workers to join them in striking for higher wages.

The provincial government held an emergency meeting with factory owners and union leaders in Bavet City on Tuesday and agreed to release four workers who were arrested last week in exchange for an end to the unrest. Union leaders have denied any involvement in the protests, but promised to work toward restoring peace.

Heng Bong, a lawyer for the four workers, who were charged at the Svay Rieng Provincial Court on Sunday with aggravated violence for their alleged roles in the riots, said a bail request was submitted on Thursday.

“The procedure of requesting release on bail was completed this afternoon, but we are still waiting for a decision from the court,” Ms. Bong said.

Tep Phalla, chief of administration at the provincial court, said the request was forwarded to the judge handling the case, but added that the judge was on holiday.

“So, I don’t think the procedure would be completed today,” he said.

Deputy provincial governor Hou Rattanak said on Thursday that authorities would ensure that the group is released on bail.

“We will facilitate their release,” Mr. Rattanak said. “If they are not released, workers would probably not work with the factories smoothly and fully.”

Although the SEZs are set to reopen today, it remains unclear whether workers will return to their stations, bringing an end to an industrial dispute that factory managers say is costing them millions of dollars a day.

Pav Sina, head of the Collective Union of Movement of Workers—which claims about 2,000 members in the Manhattan SEZ and 8,000 in the nearby Tai Seng SEZ —said it would ultimately be up to the workers.

“We just know that tomorrow is the day that workers should go to work, but we need to see the situation,” he said. “I am not sure whether or not they will go back to work.”

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