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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Gunfire hits at least 3 striking Cambodian workers

At least three striking garment workers were wounded by gunshots Monday while protesting outside their factory in southeastern Cambodia.

Keo Kong, police chief of Bavet town in Svay Rieng province, said three women were hurt, one seriously, by an unknown gunman who fired at them when the protest by more than 1,000 workers turned rowdy.

The workers at the Kaoway Sports Ltd. factory have been striking since Friday to demand better working conditions and benefits.

The factory is Taiwanese-owned and makes footwear for Germany’s Puma brand, according to the Phnom Penh Post newspaper. Commerce Ministry statistics show that most of its production is shipped to Europe, especially Germany and Italy.

The Cambodian human rights group Licadho last month lamented the increasing use of armed force against protesters.

It said there had been at least five incidents in two months in which public security forces or private armed guards opened fire on people protesting land grabs, with 19 people hurt, including seven by gunfire.

Striking workers said the gunman Monday was a factory security guard. Police said the man fled the scene, and they were investigating.

Keo Kong said the shooting began after workers started throwing stones at the factory, shattering mirrored glass.

Licadho official Nuth Bopinnaroath said the victims were aged 18, 21 and 23, and the seriously injured one received a chest wound.

The factory is located in an industrial estate, the Manhattan Special Economic Zone, close to the border with Vietnam. Last week, workers at another business in the zone, Taiwanese bicycle maker Bestway Industrial Co. Ltd., ended a two-day strike after most of their demands for better working conditions were met, the Phnom Penh Post said.

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