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Monday, October 22, 2012

Royal faux pas sparks Cambodian factory unrest

PHNOM PENH — Police in Cambodia were called in on Monday to prevent a riot at a factory whose Chinese manager angered 1,000 workers by ripping up photos of recently deceased former king Norodom Sihanouk.

Police handcuffed Wang Zia Cha, manager of the Top World factory in Phnom Penh, and escorted her to the nearest makeshift shrine honouring Sihanouk where she lit incense and knelt down as employees looked on.

"The workers were very angry with her. If we hadn't stepped in on time, the situation could have turned serious," said Phnom Penh police chief Chuon Sovann.

Wang will remain in detention as authorities investigate whether she broke the law, he said. Unlike neighbouring Thailand, Cambodia does not have specific legislation against insulting the monarchy.

The incident happened after some employees at the factory stopped work to gather around two pictures of Sihanouk.

"When the Chinese lady saw the pictures, she grabbed them... she tried to tear the photos, but she was unable to and she used scissors to cut them," factory employee Sroy Phalla, 42, told AFP.

 Top World said staff had been given the day off after the "regretful" incident and Wang had been removed from her role as chief of a production unit.

Sihanouk, who steered Cambodia through decades marked by independence from France, civil war, the murderous Khmer Rouge regime and finally peace, died of a heart attack on October 15 aged 89.

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