Woman Is Eleventh Arrest Over Riots in Bavet City SEZs

The Svay Rieng Provincial Court has charged an 11th person, a female garment worker, over violent protests that have rocked the Manhattan and Tai Seng special economic zones (SEZs) in Bavet City over the past week and a half.

Tep Phalla, a senior administrator at the court, said the woman—whose name he said he could not recall—was charged on Friday for her role in the protests on Tuesday, just before a two-day shutdown that brought work at the two SEZs to a halt.

“She was charged based on new facts…related to the violence against police, for injuring their heads when the workers threw stones and other hard stuff at the police,” he said.

“The person was sent to prison for pretrial detention and she was charged with destruction of property and intentional violence,” he added.

The charges follow the arrest of four Bavet City garment workers on December 17 and 18, and six truck drivers who ferry the workers to and from the factories on Wednesday and Thursday. All 10 have been charged with property damage, intentional violence and incitement.

Provincial military police chief Ser Vuthy said the woman arrested on Friday was in her twenties but would not provide her name. He insisted she was guilty but would not elaborate on the evidence against her.

“Obviously she destroyed the factories and injured the police,” he said, before hanging up on a reporter.

Nouth Bopinnaroath, provincial coordinator for rights group Licadho, said he spoke with the woman’s family and identified her as Chey Sakhorn. He said the family told him that she was identified by authorities from video footage of Tuesday’s protest.

“Her face was recognized from surveillance video and she was arrested as she left work,” he said. “Now she is in prison.”

The protests began on December 16 when some workers left their factories to demand higher wages. Workers from other factories joined them and the mobs soon turned violent, pelting factories and security forces with rocks.

After a two-day, government-ordered shutdown last week, work resumed on Friday and Mr. Bopinnaroath said conditions were back to normal by Saturday.

Trade unions with members in the SEZs say they played no part in provoking the protests and agreed to help restore industrial peace in return for the release of the first four workers who were arrested, which has yet to happen.

On Sunday, Chheng Chhoan, head of the Independent Labor Union of Cambodia, said he had not heard of Friday’s arrest and was worried that the protests would resume if the legal action continued.

“If the arrests continue without any releases, I am worried that [the workers] will erupt into protest to demand that the authorities release them,” Mr. Chhoan said.

A new round of protests could also begin if factories follow through on their pledge to dock workers’ pay for the two days that the government shut down the SEZs, he added.

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