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At Least 100 Injured in Day 2 of Bangladesh Pay Protests

Bangladeshi policemen run from garment workers on a highway during clashes between garment workers and police in Asulia, some 20kms north-west of Dhaka, 31 Jul 2010

Thousands of Bangladeshi garment workers unhappy with a new government-set minimum wage clashed with police for a second day Saturday, leaving at least 100 people injured.

Police fired rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse rock-throwing protesters in Ashulia, a major industrial area just north of the capital, Dhaka. Rioters also blocked roads and burned tires.

Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina appealed for calm, warning that violence will not be tolerated.

The government this week raised the minimum monthly wage by 80 percent to about $43. However, many workers and unions rejected the amount as insufficient and are demanding closer to $72.

Bangladesh has more than 4,000 garment factories accounting for 80 percent of the country's export earnings, but its workers are among the lowest paid in the world. Many make clothes for major Western brands such as Wal-Mart and H&M.

The garment sector association reluctantly agreed to the new wages, but warned the increase would result in higher production costs and make the industry less competitive.

Wage discontent has sparked a string of protests by garment workers in Bangladesh.

In June, manufacturers shut down all of the garment factories in a major industrial hub near Dhaka after tens of thousands of garment workers went on strike for better pay.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.