About 10 workers were beaten by police and military police during a protest over severance payments yesterday in Kandal province, workers and union representatives said.
Protests at Tai Yang Enterprises—which supplies clothing to U.S. brands Levi Strauss and Old Navy—in Ang Snuol district have been ongoing since May, when workers learned that the factory had changed its name to Tai Nan and became worried that their severance payments would be lost. A peaceful march to appeal to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Cabinet in Phnom Penh for help on July 11 turned violent when police officers started beating the protesters and badly injured a union representative.
Yang Sophoan, president of the Cambodian Alliance of Trade Unions (CATU), said that about 200 workers were protesting along National Road 4, near the Tai Yang factories, when more than 200 police and military police started approaching them.
“Workers were gathered, either sitting or standing on the side of the road, and the police came and started beating us without any warning,” said Ms. Sophoan.
Worker Sao Mouy, 52, said that she was kicked in her lower legs and beaten with a baton by police officers.
“We didn’t do anything wrong—we were just standing on the side of the road to show the people our problems [by holding up our banners], and the police came and starting hitting and kicking us like we were animals,” said Ms. Mouy.
Mean Samnang, deputy district police chief, denied that his officers committed any violence against the workers. “We were just maintaining the public order and preventing them from blocking the national road,” said Mr. Samnang, adding that the workers later moved to protest in front of the factory.
Rath Rott Mony, secretary-general of the Cambodian Confederation of Unions (CCU)—of which CATU is a member—said the CCU would send letters to the U.N. and Human Rights Watch about the July 11 incident.
“I will file complaints against the government officials who have seriously violated the rights of the workers,” said Mr. Rott Mony.