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Trial Opens for 23 Cambodian Labor Activists

  • Heng Reaksmey

Protesters clash with police as they attempt to move toward the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, in central Phnom Penh, Cambodia, April 25, 2014.

Protesters clash with police as they attempt to move toward the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, in central Phnom Penh, Cambodia, April 25, 2014.

Demonstrators and police clashed Friday outside the Phnom Penh Municipal Court building where 23 labor activists were brought for trial following their arrests in January.

The activists face charges related to incitement of violence in the protests.

They were arrested following garment sector protests in which security forces killed least four people and wounded dozens more. The workers had been demanding a doubling of the country's minimum wage.

One of the accused, union activist Von Pov, talked Friday with reporters outside the courthouse.

“I need freedom. It's unjust. I do everything for the Khmer people. I am innocent,” he said.

Supporters say the 23 activists are being prosecuted as a deterrent against further labor demonstrations.

About 100 supporters clashed with an equal number of riot police outside the court, with a number of protesters being injured.

Protester Kek Chanreaksmey told VOA she was kicked and beaten by police, but that she stood by the labor activists.

“Our protest is to demand the Cambodian court to deliver justice to us, not just the 23. There must be justice for all of us because the court system must be independent and no one can dictate it,” she said.

The hearings are scheduled to resume May 5.

This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Khmer service.

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