Cambodia: Suspect Steals AK-47, Fires at Officers

27 Dec – A suspected thief under questioning at the Trapaing Prasat District police station in Oddor Meanchey province broke into a police car and stole an AK-47, prompting a dramatic pursuit in which the suspect fired repeatedly at officers.

Dam Saray, Trapaing Prasat’s district deputy police chief, said yesterday that police had arrested two suspected thieves, who are brothers,

“We were questioning them in the morning around 8 o’clock and then one of the suspects, Keo Ratana, ran outside and used a stick to break a police car’s window and took an AK-47 that was kept in the car and ran away, but the police followed him,” he said.

Mr. Saray said that about 50 police, military police and border guards followed the suspect, who allegedly fired multiple times at his pursuers. Nobody was injured by the shooting.

“The suspect shot about 10 times at the forces,” Mr. Saray said. “We did not shoot back at him. We tried to arrest him until [we did so at] about 9:30 am.” Mr. Saray said yesterday that the two suspects had been sent to the provincial police station for further questioning.

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Philippines: An Anti-Election piece & Food Not Bombs Action

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26 Dec – The mud-slinging, the ridiculous character assassinations, and cyber-bullying being done by followers of the politicians aspiring for the 2016 Philippine presidency are indicators that it is all a sham recycled from several decades ago. This is why I stand by my opinion that there are better things to do to change the country than voting. This is because, whoever wins, a large part of the country’s population will still go hungry and their lives will barely change. An empty stomach, lack of shelter, and no access to proper health care can’t wait another six years.

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A local Food Not Bombs chapter can keep 20+ homeless families fed until they are strong enough to look for sources of livelihood, all with just food donations and a minuscule budget. How many government agencies with access to millions of pesos can boast of expediting the same thing? I will change my mind about voting when the machine is not broken anymore and everyone is ensured of having their voices heard. For the meantime, I’ll discuss with my wife how we can further help families in the provinces get cheap medicine and free hospitalization, like what we’ve always done before. We will continue to support local direct action efforts to better the lives of those that the government would round up and hide every time APEC is held here. That is better than being stuck in bureaucratic red tape, because the results with the former are evidently better and immediate, despite its small scale.

Dec. 21, 2015 – Cavite Leg. Food not Bombs crew and anarcho-punks in Dasmarinas, Cavite conducted food sharing activities in the said locality followed by discussion about rhetoric of election and  the evil it brings to the people and community. The Local Autonomous Network is set to conduct series of discussions re: anti-election activities in Manila, Cubao, Cavite and Bulacan.

Cambodia: Violent protests boil over in Bavet

Police take cover behind riot shields as garment factory workers throw rocks at them during a protest that turned violent in Bavet yesterday morning.Police take cover behind riot shields as garment factory workers throw rocks at them during a protest that turned violent in Bavet yesterday morning.

23 Dec – Ongoing protests by striking garment workers in the Svay Rieng province town of Bavet spiralled into “anarchy” yesterday after protesters pelted police with rocks, aggravating an already volatile situation and spurring national authorities to begin mediation efforts.

Two military police were injured in the encounter, which took place in the Manhattan Special Economic Zone, according to Ros Tharith, provincial administration director.

“It became anarchy,” he said.

Police said no arrests were made.

According to Rex Lee, manager of the Manhattan SEZ, some 5,000 protesters gathered in the zone yesterday morning as part of an ongoing strike action that has rocked several SEZs in Bavet.

The incidents began at about 8:15am and lasted about an hour and a half. Workers threw rocks at factories and pelted police who had gathered to block them, while police once again utilised hoses from fire trucks to disperse them.

“They threw a rock at my head and my helmet broke and it went through,” military police officer Kaet Cheavon, 31, said as he sat on his hospital bed yesterday.

Cheavon said the protestors essentially “chased” the outnumbered police around the SEZ as there were “too many to arrest”. None of the injuries to police were critical.

The violence is the latest in a string of incidents that have rocked the SEZs since last Wednesday, when 30,000 workers at the Tai Seng and Manhattan SEZs walked out on the job.

The workers are not satisfied with next year’s raise in the minimum wage, demanding a $20 raise from the current rate of $128, $8 more than the $140 rate for 2016 set in October.

Continue reading “Cambodia: Violent protests boil over in Bavet”

Cambodia: Mass arrest at Bavet garment protest

Police use a fire hose to disperse demonstrators at a protest in Bavet this morning, where thousands of garment workers are striking to demand an increase to the minimum wage.Police use a fire hose to disperse demonstrators at a protest in Bavet this morning, where thousands of garment workers are striking to demand an increase to the minimum wage.

20 Dec – A large group of striking garment workers has been arrested in the Svay Rieng province town of Bavet, officials and rights groups confirmed, during a day of protests that has seen water cannons used to disperse crowds.

Ros Tharith, provincial administration director, said authorities intercepted a “small number” of workers this morning who were supposedly carrying rocks that they were going to use to pelt a factory in the Manhattan Special Economic Zone.

“They wanted to incite other workers to come out,” he said.

“Our authorities did not crack down; we just took action to prevent them from using violence and arrested them, and we will wait to see how they explain themselves.”

But while there is no official tally of the number of those arrested yet, Nouth Bopinnaroath, provincial coordinator for rights group Licadho, estimated that more than 30 male and female workers were arrested.

“The men were tied down with ropes and hand-cuffed … It is not a good picture.”

Photos uploaded to local media and Facebook showed police dispersing strikers with water cannons.

Chea Oddom, provincial representative of the Cambodian Union for the Movement of Workers, said three trucks were loaded with arrested workers this morning. He estimated that some 8,000 workers were on strike today, down from a reported 30,000 last week.

The strikes began last Wednesday after workers demanded a $20 raise to the current minimum wage of $128, $8 more than the $140 figure mandated by the government in early October. Violence was soon reported after factories were pelted by stones and had their doors broken down.

Four garment workers were already arrested on Friday and charged with damages, violence and incitement on Sunday.

Cambodia: Massive protest over minimum wage continues in Bavet

Garment workers pour out of the Tai Seng Bavet SEZ earlier this week in Svay Rieng province during a large protest, calling for a higher minimum wage for the industry.Garment workers pour out of the Tai Seng Bavet SEZ earlier this week in Svay Rieng province during a large protest, calling for a higher minimum wage for the industry.

18 Dec – An unruly protest in Svay Rieng province’s Bavet town entered its second day yesterday as thousands of garment workers from a number of special economic zones continued to throw stones and break windows as they demonstrated for a greater increase to the national garment industry minimum wage.

According to Has Bunthy, director of the Svay Rieng provincial labour department, 30,000 workers from 39 factories in the Manhattan, Tai Seng 1 and Tai Seng 2 Special Economic Zones (SEZ) walked out on Wednesday afternoon following a meeting with Ministry of Labour representatives to discuss next year’s minimum wage hike to $140 a month, an amount the workers said was too low.

Protesters are demanding a $20 increase from the current minimum wage, or $148 a month, Bunthy and others at the scene said.

“The protest to break windows and destroy factory property first started with a group of protestors, many of whom are women, from the Kingmaker (Cambodia) shoe factory at the Manhattan SEZ,” he said. “They threatened people not to work or they would throw rocks, or bother them in other ways.”

Though a greater number of police were deployed to the area yesterday, “it looked like they didn’t dare crack down out of fear of repeating the case of Chhouk Bandith”, Bunthy said, referring to the former Bavet town governor who shot three garment workers during a protest in 2012.

“Also, no union has claimed leadership of the protests,” he added.

Sok Khemara, a local representative of the Collective Union of Movement of Workers, confirmed yesterday that no union was responsible for the protest.

While the protesting workers were answerable for the damage, he said, local officials also had to accept a share of the guilt for keeping unions out of the SEZs, preventing them from educating workers about the minimum wage when it was first settled months ago.

At Kingmaker, the factory where the protest began, Khemara said, workers had no knowledge of the new wage before Wednesday’s meeting.

A factory worker at the Best Way factory, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said yesterday that “a lot of the factory workers broke through the factory’s door and came in to ask me and the other workers to come out and join the demonstration”.

Though the worker declined to participate, he said he too was unhappy with the new wage, and supported protesters’ demands that it be raised to $148.

Bunthy, the provincial labour official, said factories wouldn’t agree to a higher wage, and that all officials could do was try to sell workers on $140 a month.

The Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia yesterday issued an open letter to Prime Minister Hun Sen characterising the protests as a “riot”, and calling on the authorities to restore order.

Continue reading “Cambodia: Massive protest over minimum wage continues in Bavet”

Cambodia: Organiser arrested over march

Protesters stand around an effigy in Poipet yesterday after marching though the Bantaey Meanchey border town to voice their concerns about forced evictions along the railway.Protesters stand around an effigy of a government official in Poipet yesterday after marching though the Bantaey Meanchey border town to voice their concerns about forced evictions along the railway.

15 Dec – The organiser of a protest by community members who face eviction from their homes to make way for a railway project in Banteay Meanchey province was detained yesterday after demonstrators burned an effigy and dragged its decapitated body through the streets.

About 50 protesters marched through the border town of Poipet dragging the dummy, which was painted in fake blood with the words “corrupt officials abuse citizens and create injustice”, said Vorn Vann, 36, one of the demonstrators.

After the march concluded, protest organiser Chheng Bun Hak was arrested by provincial police, Vorn added.

“It’s unjust. We are trying to seek justice and solutions and instead the police arrest us,” he said. “If the problem is resolved we will stop protesting.”

Families living along the railway lines in Banteay Meanchey have been told they must make way for road construction in preparation for the tracks to be laid.

The line will connect Poipet, an important trade route with neighbouring Thailand, to Phnom Penh.

Ath Khem, the provincial police chief, said the demonstrators had protested 12 times in recent months without permission from the authorities.

“It [the protests] affected our social norms many times, so we needed to take action by detaining him [Bun Hak] for questioning,” Khem said.

Soum Chankea, the provincial coordinator for local rights group Adhoc, said the detention was an attack on freedom of expression.

“The arrest shows that the government lacks the capacity to resolve the problem for the people,” he said.

“Dragging a fake body through the streets does not threaten government officials.

Cambodia: Officials cursed over land dispute

Evicted Borei Keila community members plant a curse outside Prampi Makara District Hall yesterday.Evicted Borei Keila community members plant a curse outside Prampi Makara District Hall yesterday

15 Dec – Borei Keila community members yesterday splattered a mix of fish and pig blood, foodstuffs, rice wine, sand, ash, chilli and fake money outside Prampi Makara District Hall in Phnom Penh to ‘curse’ those responsible for their long-running land dispute.

The group of about 50 residents also spread the concoction outside the office of Phan Imex, which reneged on its deal to re-house all of the villages booted en masse from the site in 2012.

The company built only eight of 10 promised buildings to resettle evictees. Currently, 154 families are displaced. Of those, 34 were promised on-site resettlement.

The rest have been told to take compensation or live at a relocation site on the city’s outskirts.

Yesterday, protesters accused the company of continuing construction of a ninth building to rent and sell privately while they remained homeless, though District Governor Keang Leak denied this.

Protesters cursed ‘corrupt’ officials and businessmen, calling for the spirits to cause them to ‘face loss and disdain, and to accidentally die’.