Cambodian court starts trials of 21 labor activists arrested in January clashes

Source:Xinhua Published: 2014-4-25 11:13:43

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Friday began trials of 21 labor activists and garment workers, who were detained following violent protests three months ago.

The detainees, who are accused of intentionally causing violence and destroying property, were brought to courtrooms under tight security as dozens of union activists and relatives gathered outside the court to demand the detainees' release.

Government critic Von Pov, president of the Independent Democratic Association of Informal Economy, is among the detainees.

The trials have been divided into four cases, corresponding to locations where they were apprehended: two in the Canadia Industrial Park, one at the Stung Meanchey bridge, and one at the Yak Jing garment factory.

Twenty-three people were arrested during the clashes between police and protesters on Jan. 2 and 3 on the outskirts of capital Phnom Penh when they staged violent protests to demand a higher minimum wage of 160 US dollars for the garment sector, but two of them were later freed on bail.

The clashes at that time left 4 people dead and dozens injured, and cost garment factories millions of US dollars.

Am Sam Ath, a senior investigator for the rights group Licadho, said he hopes the court will drop all charges against them since they are innocent.

Dispute on minimum wages for garment workers remain hot in this Southeast Asian nation since eight pro-opposition trade unions, which represent more than 100,000 workers, are still jointly demanding the government to increase the minimum wages to 160 US dollars a month, but the government said the demand is too high.



The current minimum wage is 100 US dollars a month.

The garment and footwear industry, the kingdom's largest foreign exchange earner, comprises 960 factories with some 620,000 workers. The sector earned 5.5 billion US dollars from exports last year.


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