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Veng Sreng protest anniversary blocked

Taing Vida / Khmer Times Share:
Demonstrators clash with authorities during the Veng Sreng protests. KT/Mai Vireak

Police yesterday dismantled a ceremony tent erected by worker unions i district to mark the fifth anniversary of the 2013 and 2014 fatal along Veng Sreng Boulevard for higher minimum wages in the garment sector.

Dozens of Sen Sok district officials pulled down the tent, saying it was erected without notice and blocked a road.

City Hall spokesman Met Meas Pheakdey said authorities removed the tent because no notice was given and no approval from local authorities was granted, adding that violent clashes were not worth marking.

“The ceremony tent blocked the road, so the authorities have to remove it,” Mr Meas Pheakdey said, “The incident was a chaotic movement. Why do they celebrate or honour it? We cannot allow them to do so.”

Garment workers staged the 2013 and 2014 wage protests along Veng Sreng Boulevard, which turned violent and led to authorities opening fire on demonstrators, leaving at least five dead.

With the tent taken down yesterday, the Independent Democracy of Informal Economy Association instead held a religious ceremony inside its office in Sen Sok district, where workers put up pictures from the demonstrations.

Vorn Pov, president of IDEA, also displayed the bloodied clothes he wore on the day he was beaten and gave a speech to commemorate it inside his office.

Mr Pov, one of 23 people arrested in January 2014 over the protests, said he has not forgotten the ordeal.

“It has been five years but we have never forgotten it. We remember all our hero workers who joined us to demand higher wages,” Mr Pov said. “I hope all Cambodian people remember it. We know who beat us, but they are still scot-free.”

In December 2013, garment workers took to the streets to demand a minimum wage hike from $80 to $95, but the protest was ended by military police and police forces on January 3, 2014. At least five people were killed and 27 more injured.

After the incident, the Interior Ministry set up a commission to investigate the clashes between the police and protestors, a move criticized by rights groups, which said the government was incapable of carrying out an independent investigation.

National Police spokesman Lieutenant General Chhay Kim Khoeun said the probe has been ongoing and that no conclusion has been made yet.

“At that time, police suspected it was linked to a colour revolution. The investigation has taken time, and we are still searching for the truth behind the protests,” Lt Gen Kim Khoeun said. “I could not reveal the result we have in hand now since we could not conclude it.”

On December 11, six union leaders Chea Mony, Mom Nhim, Ath Thorn, Yang Sophorn, Pav Sina, and former unionist Rong Chhun were found guilty of instigating violence over their roles in the 2013 and 2014 violent protests.

They were sentenced to two years and six months in jail, but the sentences were suspended.

Prime Minister Hun Sen said last month that three out of the six union leaders were not involved in the demonstrations.

Mr Hun Sen also urged Labour Ministry and Justice Ministry to speed up and end long-standing lawsuits against union leaders by the end of the year.

Labour Ministry spokesman Heng Sour yesterday said more than 100 court cases filed by union leaders across the country have been forwarded to the Justice Ministry.

“Ninety percent of the court cases we received are complaints lodged by company owners,” Mr Sour said. “Seven cases were filed by union leaders against each other.”

Justice Ministry spokesman Chin Malin said the court is now handling the cases, noting that the process would take longer, depending on each case.

“The court has sped up its procedure, but it does not mean the charges are dropped,” Mr Malin said. “For the six union leaders, the court already issued the verdict. They can appeal it. Otherwise, they have to accept it.”

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