Sunday, May 8, 2011

Cambodian police in violent crackdown: Rights groups

Garment workers react during a protest in front of the garment factory June Textiles Co.,LTD (Cambodia) in Phnom Penh May 8, 2011. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

PHNOM PENH - RIGHTS groups in Cambodia accused police of using disproportionate violence on Sunday, alleging they beat protesters at a rally by 2,000 garment workers in the capital.

Around 100 officers, armed with anti-riot shields, electric batons and guns, moved in to disperse the mainly female crowd that had formed a roadblock near Phnom Penh's airport, according to a joint statement by three rights groups.

It said the police fired warning shots into the air, deliberately drove motorbikes into the crowd, arrested two female workers and left another eight women in need of hospital treatment for their injuries.

But Phnom Penh police chief Touch Naruth said just one person was arrested, who is still in custody, and that he had seen just 'one or two' of the crowd wounded, while nine of the security force were injured.

'The use of violence by police was totally disproportional to the workers' actions,' said Am Sam Ath, monitoring supervisor at the LICADHO, the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defence of Human Rights.

'The government should be supporting unions on the issue of expressive rights, rather than systemically cracking down on every form of rights activism,' he said. -- AFP

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