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Families Want ‘Justice’ for Slain Workers

Families Want Justice for Slain Workers
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Families of garments workers shot dead in Phnom Penh early last month say they are appealing for justice for their loved ones.

At least four people were killed when police fired on demonstrators during the Jan. 3 crackdown. No one has been arrested or reprimanded in the wake of the shootings.

For Khat Samneang, that means she will see only the photos of her husband, Kim Phalleap, from now on. Kim Phalleap was among those shot during clashes.

A garment worker herself, Khat Samneang said the loss of her husband meant the loss of her future.

“I have now become a widow with a two month-old baby girl,” she said. “What hope do I have? Who can I depend on? When my girl grows up, she will have no father.”

Khat Samneang and her husband had moved from Kampong Speu province and were living together in a rented room near Canadia Industrial Park, where the clashes took place. She said her husband had joined workers in demonstrating for higher wages, but he had not broken the law.

“Why did they shoot him with real bullets?” she said, weeping.

Police say they responded with force to workers who had turned violent, throwing rocks and firebombs. Nearly 40 people were injured in the ensuing clashes, and 23 people were arrested.

Suos Sam Ol, Kim Phalleap’s father, said his son was protesting for “an appropriate living wage—not to buy a villa, or a car, or to become rich.”

“Please help seek justice for my son,” he said.

Families of the slain workers held a gathering last month sponsored by the Independent Monks Network for Social Justice and evictees of the Beoung Kak lake neighborhood.

Tep Vanny, a representative of the evictees, said the four workers had “sacrificed their lives” seeking a minimum wage of $160 per month. “We will remember them in our hearts as our most heroic workers,” she said.

Government spokesman Phay Siphan said authorities are looking for those responsible. “But we will start with the inciters and the demonstrators,” he said.

Military police spokesman Kheng Tito said finding the shooters has not been easy.

“How do we know who shot them?” he said. “We don’t know, because the situation at the time was so chaotic that we didn’t know who was who. So how can we charge anyone with the shooting?”

No commanding officers have been indicted in the incident, and the victims’ families say they aren’t satisfied with those arguments.

Sam Thai, whose son, Sam Ravy, was shot in the chest and killed, appealed for outside help.

“I want foreigners both inside and outside the country to help find justice for my son,” she said. “I had no one else but him, who struggled for me, his relatives and all of us.”