Three killed in Cambodia protests
Published 03/01/2014 | 11:12
At least three people have been killed when police in Cambodia opened fire to break up a protest by striking garment workers demanding a doubling of the minimum wage.
Police said two others were wounded when officers fired AK-47 rifles after several hundred workers blocking a road south of the capital Phnom Penh began burning tyres and throwing objects at them. The incident followed another clash overnight.
Police official Chuon Narin described the protesters as anarchists who were destroying public and private property. They were cleared from the street, at least temporarily, by early afternoon.
Chan Saveth, an observer from the human rights group Adhoc, said his group had tallied three dead and 10 hurt, seven apparently with gunshot wounds.
The violence comes at a time of political tension, as the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party has protested daily for Prime Minister Hun Sen to step down and call elections. Hun Sen won elections last July that extended his 28-year rule in the poor Southeast Asian nation, but opposition protesters accuse him of rigging the vote. Hun Sen has rejected their demand.
Workers at most of the country's more than 500 garment factories are on strike, demanding an increase in the minimum wage to about £100 a month, double the current rate. The government has offered £60 a month.
Although the wage and election issues are not directly linked, the opposition has close ties with the country's labour movement. On Sunday, many workers joined a massive political rally organised by the opposition.
The workers represent a powerful political force, because the garment industry is Cambodia's biggest export earner, employing about 500,000 people in garment and shoe factories. In 2012, the Southeast Asian country shipped more £2.4 billion worth of products to the United States and Europe.