News / Asia

    Trial of 23 Cambodian Labor Activists Opens

    A woman from Boeung Kak Lake community is stopped by local security guards near a blocked main street near the Phnom Penh Municipality Court, April 25, 2014.
    A woman from Boeung Kak Lake community is stopped by local security guards near a blocked main street near the Phnom Penh Municipality Court, April 25, 2014.
    Heng Reaksmey
    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 were brought into the court in handcuffs, then split into three rooms, where they faced judges on charges related to incitement of violence in the protests.

    Authorities have detained 21 of the activists since their arrests.  Two others, released on bail, were also brought to trial Friday.  The defendants were taken into custody following garment sector protests in which security forces killed least four people and injured dozens more.  The workers had been demanding a doubling of the country's minimum wage.

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

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

    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 said in an interview with VOA that 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," said Chanreaksmey.

    The hearings are scheduled to resume May 5.

    This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Khmer service

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