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Cambodian Police Open Fire on Protesters, 3 Dead

Cambodian police have opened fire on striking garment workers, killing at least three people.

Witnesses say security forces fired assault rifles at protesters in Phnom Penh after they blocked a road and hurled stones at police. A local human rights group put the death toll at four, and said more than 20 were wounded.

The incident is the latest in a string of clashes between demonstrators and security forces.

At least 20 people, including 15 monks, were reported wounded Thursday in a crackdown on striking garment workers after a special military unit was called in to clear the demonstrators.

Local human rights groups, which say at least 10 people were arrested Thursday outside the Yak Jin factory near Phnom Penh, condemned the violence and the deployment of an elite unit of soldiers (Special Command Unit 911).

Nuth Romduol of the opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party and an elected member of Parliament, told VOA's Khmer service that the soldiers were the aggressors.

"They were aggressive at us once I got there. The soldiers were aggressive and took a young man away. He was simply a by-stander, but was beaten up with sticks. He was not armed and didn't throw any stone. This happened right before my eyes."

But Chap Sophorn, the commander of the paramilitary unit, said his troops only responded after protesters began throwing rocks at them.

"Do we have to stand idle and get attacked at or what? My soldiers obediently follow my order. If I say "attention", they are at attention, and if I say "stop," they stop. Who is responsible when we say don't throw at us, but they still did? Even you cannot stand it."

Most of Cambodia's garment workers are on strike to demand higher wages.

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

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