Workers beaten at May Day protests in Cambodia

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Cambodia policeSecurity forces beat demonstrators on May 1 after a May Day rally held in defiance of a government ban on public protests in the Cambodian capital. Witnesses said civilian auxiliary police, who are armed with clubs and often used by the government to break up protests, attacked demonstrators after opposition leaders had spoken to the crowd and left the rally site. The assaults appeared to be random and limited, and were over in less than an hour, AP reported.

Nearly 1,000 factory workers and supporters of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party had gathered on the streets outside the city’s Freedom Park, which had been barred to demonstrators and sealed off with barbed wire, with hundreds of police on guard. The event was held both to mark the labor holiday and kick off the opposition’s campaign for local elections.

A ban on demonstrations has been in place since January, following numerous labor protests for a higher minimum wage and opposition demonstrations denouncing last July’s general election as rigged.

Opposition party members have boycotted their seats in the National Assembly, but both the opposition and the government of Prime Minister Hun Sen have said they are close to a deal which would include electoral reforms and moving up the date of the next election.

Hun Sen has been in power for almost three decades, and while Cambodia is formally democratic, his government is authoritarian in nature and known for intimidating opponents.

An officer of the human rights group Licadho said at least five people were hurt by security forces.

“These security forces seem to be addicted to beating people,” said Om Sam Ath. “Every time they disperse protesters, they beat people, and not one of them has been arrested.”

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy, speaking before the violence, condemned the government for banning workers from holding a May Day rally. He said he supports labor’s demands for a higher minimum wage for garment factory workers. Textile exports are Cambodia’s main foreign exchange earner.

The minimum wage had been increased, but not as much as workers had demanded, and a widespread but short-lived strike accompanied the protests. Labor unions have close links to the opposition, and Hun Sen has warned them to keep out of politics.

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Reading Time: 2 minutes

Security forces beat demonstrators on May 1 after a May Day rally held in defiance of a government ban on public protests in the Cambodian capital. Witnesses said civilian auxiliary police, who are armed with clubs and often used by the government to break up protests, attacked demonstrators after opposition leaders had spoken to the crowd and left the rally site. The assaults appeared to be random and limited, and were over in less than an hour, AP reported.

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Cambodia policeSecurity forces beat demonstrators on May 1 after a May Day rally held in defiance of a government ban on public protests in the Cambodian capital. Witnesses said civilian auxiliary police, who are armed with clubs and often used by the government to break up protests, attacked demonstrators after opposition leaders had spoken to the crowd and left the rally site. The assaults appeared to be random and limited, and were over in less than an hour, AP reported.

Nearly 1,000 factory workers and supporters of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party had gathered on the streets outside the city’s Freedom Park, which had been barred to demonstrators and sealed off with barbed wire, with hundreds of police on guard. The event was held both to mark the labor holiday and kick off the opposition’s campaign for local elections.

A ban on demonstrations has been in place since January, following numerous labor protests for a higher minimum wage and opposition demonstrations denouncing last July’s general election as rigged.

Opposition party members have boycotted their seats in the National Assembly, but both the opposition and the government of Prime Minister Hun Sen have said they are close to a deal which would include electoral reforms and moving up the date of the next election.

Hun Sen has been in power for almost three decades, and while Cambodia is formally democratic, his government is authoritarian in nature and known for intimidating opponents.

An officer of the human rights group Licadho said at least five people were hurt by security forces.

“These security forces seem to be addicted to beating people,” said Om Sam Ath. “Every time they disperse protesters, they beat people, and not one of them has been arrested.”

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy, speaking before the violence, condemned the government for banning workers from holding a May Day rally. He said he supports labor’s demands for a higher minimum wage for garment factory workers. Textile exports are Cambodia’s main foreign exchange earner.

The minimum wage had been increased, but not as much as workers had demanded, and a widespread but short-lived strike accompanied the protests. Labor unions have close links to the opposition, and Hun Sen has warned them to keep out of politics.

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