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Phnom Penh Denies Unions Permission for Demonstration

Rong Chhun, rear center, Cambodian Teacher Independence Association's president gives a press conference on a street as he walking to the protesting site, file photo.
Phnom Penh officials have denied permission to labor organizers to hold a demonstration in the city’s Freedom Park later this week.

Unions plan to hold a gathering on March 8, to call for higher wages and the release of 21 activists who have been in detention since January.

Following a meeting between city and union leaders, Long Dimanche, a spokesman for the Phnom Penh government, said the planned gathering was “inciting in nature and could lead to chaos again.”

The ban comes despite assurances in public speeches by Prime Minister Hun Sen that more gatherings would be allowed in the city. Demonstrations in January ended in violence, as police opened fire on demonstrators, killing at least four and injuring dozens more.

Chea Mony, head of the Free Trade Union, said the city was arbitrarily ignoring the words of Hun Sen.

Workers have continued to call for a raise in the minimum wage, to $160 per month, and for the release of 21 people arrested in the Jan. 2 and Jan. 3 crackdowns.

Labor leaders said they will go forward with their planned demonstration regardless of the city.

“We don’t need to ask permission, not even from the Ministry of Interior,” said Rong Chhun, who leads the Cambodian Confederation of Unions. “Because according to the law, we only need to give prior notification.”