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Families of Slain Cambodian Garment Workers Call for Justice

  • Say Mony

Families of garments workers shot dead on Phnom Penh streets early last month have appealed for justice.

Khat Samneang is among of them. Her husband, Kim Phalleap, was one of at least four garment workers shot dead during a violent clash between striking garment workers and Cambodian government armed forces on Jan. 3.

A garment worker herself, she says the loss of her husband is the loss of her future.

“I want justice for my husband because he did nothing wrong," said Khat. "He just protested for a higher wage for workers and teachers, and for a lower cost of living, but why did they shoot him with real bullets?”

Hundreds of garment workers were demonstrating for a doubling of their minimum wage of $80 per month when they threw rocks and Molotov cocktails at government security forces, who responded with live ammunition.

“Please help seek justice for my son because he protested only for an appropriate living wage," said Suos Sam Ol, Kim's father, "not to buy a villa, a car or to become rich.”

Apart from at least four deaths, more than 30 people were injured and 23 others were arrested in the clash.

Activist Tep Vanny and other protest leaders were briefly detained last month while trying to submit a petition calling for the release of 23 activists. She says the four who died should be remembered as heroes.

“These four sacrificed their lives not just for themselves but for all the garment workers across the country so that they could get a minimum wage of $160 per month," Tep said. "So we will remember them all in our hearts as our most heroic workers.”

Officials have said an investigation is being conducted, but no progress has yet been reported.

Government spokesman Phay Siphan says the investigation will start by looking at the demonstrators first.

Kheng Tito, the spokesman of the military police, told VOA's Khmer service that finding the shooters won't be easy.

“How do we know who shot them? We do not know because the situation at that time was so chaotic that we did not know who was who," Kheng said. "So, how can we charge anyone with the shooting?”

Prime Minister Hun Sen faces a growing challenge to his 28-year rule, both from factory workers demanding higher pay, and opposition forces demanding he step down and call a new election due to alleged fraud during a July 2013 election.

This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Khmer service
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