At least three dead after police open fire on striking workers in Cambodia

Police fired AK-47 rifles after protesters blocked a road and began burning tires and throwing objects

At least three people have been killed after police in Cambodia opened fire to break up a protest by striking garment workers demanding a doubling of the minimum wage, police and human rights workers said.

Chuon Narin, deputy chief of the Phnom Penh Municipal Police, said the three were killed and two others were wounded in a southern suburb of the capital when police fired AK-47 rifles after several hundred workers blocking a road south of the capital Phnom Penh began burning tires and throwing objects at them. The incident followed another clash overnight.

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 stress in the country, 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 Asia 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 $160 a month, double the current rate. The government has offered $100 a month.

Although the wage and election issues are not directly linked, the opposition has close ties with the country's labor movement. On Sunday, many workers joined a massive political rally organized by the opposition.

The workers represent a potent 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 $4 billion worth of products to the United States and Europe.

Friday's confrontation followed a similar violent one a day earlier at a different location, in which elite troops broke up a demonstration outside a factory, beating demonstrators and arresting 10 people, including Buddhist monks, according to witnesses from human rights groups.

In that case, according to the local human rights group LICADHO, “The soldiers were seen brandishing metal pipes, knives, AK-47 rifles, slingshots and batons.”

The standoff over wages presents Hun Sen with a dilemma, as increasing violence could drive the workers into a tighter alliance with the opposition, providing a vast pool of people for their increasingly confident street demonstrations. But the government is also close to the factory owners, whose export products are the locomotive for the economy.

The Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia last week called for factory owners to close their plants, ostensibly for fear of damage by protesters. The situation puts pressure both on the workers, who go without pay, and the government, which relies on garment exports to power the economy.

In an evident effort to increase the pressure on Hun Sen, the association on Thursday sent a letter to the government asking that their members be allowed to export capital equipment to other countries because they were unable to operate in Cambodia. There was no immediate response from the government.

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Arts and Entertainment
Highs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
News
news
New Articles
i100... with this review
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Cover Supervisor

£75 - £90 per day + negotiable: Randstad Education Group: Are you a cover supe...

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam