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Trial of Detained Cambodian Labor Activists Resumes

  • Heng Reaksmey

Police officers block a street as protesters demonstrate near the Phnom Penh Municipal Court in central Phnom Penh, May 6, 2014.
A Cambodian court has resumed the trial of 23 labor activists who were arrested during violent demonstrations in January.

During questioning Tuesday, three of the defendants told the court they had been beaten by special forces personnel during the violence outside a factory in Phnom Penh.

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.

Am Sam Ath, the chief investigator for the rights group Licadho, said the court's questions appeared biased. He said he was doubtful the 23 accused would receive justice "if the court is still biased."

"These are the first cases to test the beginning of the government judicial reform in ensuring independence of the court system," he said. "If these cases do not reflect any of this, then it won't restore people's confidence in the court system."

An estimated 1,000 riot police were deployed outside the Phnom Penh courthouse as about 100 gathered to call for the release of the defendants. No clashes were reported.

Court hearings will continue on May 20.

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