Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Cambodian police break up Nike factory protest

Cambodian riot police on Monday broke up a protest by several thousand workers at a factory making clothes for US sportswear giant Nike and arrested eight people, labor activists said.

Unionists accused the security forces of using excessive force and intimidation to quell the demo -- the latest in a series of outbreaks of worker unrest at factories producing goods for western brands.

"The arrests are a threat to thousands of workers at the factory not to continue their protest... the situation is getting worse," said Say Sokny, secretary general of the Free Trade Union (FTU).

The FTU said at least 10 people were injured in the incident at Sabrina Cambodia Garment Manufacturing in the southern province of Kampong Speu. The arrested demonstrators included seven of its members.

Police said they were forced to intervene after protesters threw rocks at the factory and fighting broke out between two rival groups of workers.

"We had to break them up in order to protect the factory," said Kheng Tito, spokesman for the national military police, adding that 20 officers were injured by sticks and rocks thrown by demonstrators.

The incident followed violent scenes at the same factory last week when riot police allegedly used stun batons to disperse protesters.

Protesters say this resulted in a pregnant woman suffering a miscarriage.

Days later, three people were knocked unconscious after police fired water jets at a protest in Phnom Penh over disputed land, heightening rights campaigners' concerns over the kingdom's intolerance of dissent.

Cambodia holds elections on July 28, with strongman premier Hun Sen -- who has led the country since 1985 -- looking to extend his hold on power.

The textile industry, which employs about 650,000 people and produces clothes for top western brands, is a key source of foreign income for Cambodia.

The country earned $4.6 billion from its garment exports last year but a series of strikes has pointed to festering discontent at low wages and tough conditions in the industry.-GMA News

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