About 80 garment workers on Tuesday made their way through the ranks of over 150 police, including about 100 officers armed with shields, tear gas, electric batons and guns, to deliver a Labor Day petition to the National Assembly.
The police surrounded the National Assembly, which was closed for Labor Day, at around 8 am and blocked traffic along Sisowath Quay for over one hour.
Ath Thon, the president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Union, said he had brought along a megaphone, posters and banners, but kept them hidden when he saw the large police presence.
“I felt uncomfortable,” he said.
Workers showed up around 11 am and delivered a petition, signed by 50 union leaders and 10 workers rights groups, to a security guard who said he would deliver it to Pen Pannha, the chairman of the Assembly’s commission on the protection of human rights. The rally lasted all of 20 minutes.
In their petition, workers asked that their monthly wages be increased to $80; that garment factories deposit funds in a bank account so they can’t skip town without paying their employees; and that the government pass an anti-corruption law and create a special court to resolve labor issues.
“Our workers lose court cases unjustly because we have no money, no power and no partisans,” Ath Thon said.
Workers also asked in the petition that the government not amend the labor law to decrease the current night work rate and urged it to help reduce violence against union members.
Phnom Penh Municipal Police Chief Touch Naruth said his officers were deployed not to block the demonstration, but to provide security for the petitioners.
“We keep security for [the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers],” he said.
Pen Pannha could not be reached for comment.
Ath Thon said he planned to hand the petition over to the Council of Ministers today.