Cambodian riot police clash again with anti-government protesters

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 26 January, 2014, 2:40pm
UPDATED : Monday, 27 January, 2014, 5:13am

Baton-wielding Cambodian police clashed yesterday with protesters - including Buddhist monks - demanding higher wages for garment workers and the release of 23 people arrested during a recent bloody crackdown on a rally.

About 200 textile workers, union members, land-rights protesters and several monks attempting to stage a rally at Phnom Penh's Democracy Park were met by scores of riot police.

A brief clash broke out when some of the protesters tried to make it through police lines into the park, prompting officers to use batons against them.

Protesters responded by throwing rocks, water bottles and sticks.

At least 10 people from both sides were injured, according to activist Am Sam Ath of local rights group Licadho. "The clash shows zero tolerance from authorities [for protests]," he said.

Authorities have quelled recent street protests against strongman Prime Minister Hun Sen.

The government says the rallies were illegal and has indefinitely banned demonstrations in the capital by the opposition, which accuses Hun Sen of vote-rigging in polls last year.

A protest organiser said they would press on with their bid to free those arrested earlier this month during a police crackdown on striking garment workers, which left at least four civilians dead.

The employees were demanding a minimum wage of US$160 a month for their work in an industry which supplies brands including Gap, Nike and H&M.

"Our activity today is not the final one. We are making a stand and we will not stop our demands," said union leader Ath Thorn.

The 23 people arrested in connection with the unrest are being held at a prison near the border with Vietnam on charges linked to the incident.

Cambodian police broke up a rally in the capital on Tuesday and briefly detained 11 activists who were calling for international assistance to secure the release of protesters.

Hun Sen faces mounting criticism by rights groups of his government's suppression of street protests intended to challenge his nearly three-decade rule.