|At least three Cambodians have been killed when police opened fire on garment workers on strike, as a nationwide wave of protests, backed by the main opposition party, presses on in demand for wages to be doubled.
An Associated Press photographer and human rights workers said police fired AK-47 rifles on Friday, after several hundred workers blocking a road south of the capital Phnom Penh began burning tires and throwing objects at them. Several wounded workers could be seen after the shots were fired.
Phnom Penh deputy police commissioner Chuon Narin told AFP news agency that three people had been killed and several others wounded in the capital.
About 500,000 Cambodians are employed in the garment industry, the country’s biggest export earner worthing $5bn a year to the economy. The government has offered $100 as a minimum monthly wage, short of a $160 wage pledged by the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party.
The clash comes a day after Cambodian soldiers forcefully quelled a separate demonstration by striking workers, marking a violent turning point after two weeks of relatively peaceful strikes, marches and demonstrations of unprecedented scale in Cambodia. Security forces, which have a reputation for zero-tolerance, have so far exercised restraint.
The violence comes at a time of political stress, as the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party has protested daily for Prime Minister Hun Sen to step down and call for new elections.
Hun Sen won elections last July that extended his 28-year rule in the poor Southeast Asia nation, but protesters led by opposition head Sam Rainsy accuse him of rigging the vote. Hun Sen has rejected their demand.
Although the wage and election issues are not directly linked, Cambodia’s opposition has had long and close ties with the country’s labour movement.