Cambodia clears protest park after deadly clashes

Cambodia clears protest park after deadly clashes

PHNOM PENH - Cambodian security guards and city workers, watched over by riot police, dismantled a camp occupied by anti-government demonstrators on Saturday, a day after a bloody crackdown on garment factory workers allied with the protest movement.

Friday's clashes, during which police shot dead four people, have stoked a political crisis in which striking workers and supporters of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) are challenging a government they say cheated its way to power and is depriving them of a fair wage.

Despite the crackdown, CNRP leader Sam Rainsy vowed that a mass march and rally planned for Sunday would go ahead. Rainsy also condemned the violence and demanded a thorough investigation.

Hundreds of CNRP supporters have been camped since December 15 in tents around a stage in Freedom Park, the only place in Phnom Penh where protests are allowed.

Unions representing garment workers want better pay and support CNRP's demands for a re-run of an election in July it says was rigged to allow long-serving Prime Minister Hun Sen to remain in power.

Friday's clashes took place at Canadia Industrial Park, also in Phnom Penh, which is home to dozens of factories that make clothing for Western brands such as Adidas, Puma and H&M Hennes & Mauritz.

On Saturday, many CNRP supporters grabbed their belongings and fled, some clutching babies, when they saw riot police approaching Freedom Park, Reuters witnesses said.

Riot police however held back from the main site while security guards and city workers in plain clothes, some carrying axes and steel pipes, moved in to dismantle the stage and tents. Three helicopters flew low overhead, while riot police carrying batons kept journalists away from the site.

CNRP issued a statement accusing "forces in civilian clothing" of beating demonstrators and urged its supporters not to retaliate.

 

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