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Arrest of bloodied union worker sends message to visiting dignitaries as to state of free expression

A bloodied Long Panha is put in the back of a police van today at Wat Botum
A bloodied Long Panha is put in the back of a police van today at Wat Botum

CCHR

UPDATE: CCHR welcomes the release of union activist (CCHR, 12 July 2012)

(CCHR/IFEX) - Phnom Penh, 11 July 2012 - The Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR) condemns the beating and arrest of a peaceful demonstrator, Long Panha, by the authorities today at Wat Botum in Phnom Penh. Mr. Long, an employee of the Cambodian Confederation of Unions (CCU), was taking part in a peaceful demonstration by employees of the Tai Yang (recently renamed Tai Nan) factory who had gathered in Phnom Penh's Freedom Park early this morning with the intention of walking to Wat Botum to submit a petition to the Cabinet of Prime Minister Hun Sen calling for a resolution to an ongoing dispute with the factory.

Today's protest was the latest in a series of protests that have been held since 25 June by the workers from the factory who are calling for, amongst other things, higher levels of compensation than that offered by the factory for the severance of their contracts following the change in the factory's name.

At around 7am, approximately 500 workers from the factory gathered in the capital's Freedom Park. After an hour of speeches from individuals including CCU President Rong Chhun, the workers moved to walk towards Wat Botum to submit their petition. They were immediately surrounded by a force of between 200 and 300 military police in riot gear who had been waiting nearby, and were prevented from leaving the freedom park. After a short stand-off, it was agreed that twenty representatives would be permitted to leave the Freedom Park and to deliver the petition at Wat Botum.

After submitting the petition at Wat Botum, the twenty representatives - a group that included Rong Chhun and Long Panha - refused police requests to vacate the adjoining public park, explaining that they wanted to rest for a short time after walking across town. Police and military police surrounded Rong Chhun as the workers tried to usher him from the area, fearing that he would be arrested. In the melee that followed, a mixed group of police and military police turned on Long Panha, beating him viciously across the head with batons. He was pulled to the ground and held in a prone position, blood gushing from his face, before being hauled by his arms and legs into the back of a nearby police van which sped him from the scene to the office of the Phnom Penh Police Commissariat. At the time of writing, Mr. Long remains in police custody.

Responding to today's events, CCHR President Ou Virak commented: This incident represents yet another shameful attempt by the Phnom Penh authorities to silence peaceful protestors in an effort to present a picture of stability in the country to visiting dignitaries. In attacking Long Panha in this manner, the authorities have succeeded in giving visiting representatives from the countries of ASEAN as well as from China, Japan, South Korea and the United States a very clear example of the consequences that peaceful protestors in this country face, when they gather together to call for fair and equitable treatment.

Download the CCHR Fact Sheet entitled "Violent response to Workers' Protest":
Cambodia_CCHR_Factsheet_Workers_Protest.pdf (664 KB)

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