Two men who were part of a protest for bus drivers have been detained by authorities Monday, following violent demonstrations against a bus company in Phnom Penh on Saturday. Some 45 bus drivers are demanding their jobs back with Capitol Bus.
The two men, Norn Vanna, a former driver, and Rous Siphay, a member of the Cambodian Labor Confederation, were held following the questioning of six protesters on Monday.
Deputy prosecutor Srey Makny said all six men are accused of intentional violence, opposing public officials and obstructing traffic.
The violence came as protesting bus drivers clashed with counter-protesters for the bus company from a group called the Cambodia for Confederation Development Association. The counter-protesters attacked protesters with hammers and batons, leaving many injured. Thirty-four civil society groups signed a joint statement condemning the violence.
Kong Atith, secretary general of the Cambodian Labor Confederation, who suffered injuries on Saturday and was also questioned by the court, said the decision to hold the two men was an unfair decision by the court.
“They only support those who have money and make the poor and vulnerable struggle,” he said. “Our nation has to change. If there's no change, there will be no light at the end of the tunnel for innocent people like us.”
Some 50 protesters gathered outside Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Monday to demand the men be released.
Am Sam Ath, chief investigator for the rights group Licadho, said the court needed to scrutinize the case carefully and understand what caused the clashes. He also said the court has little evidence against the men it was now charging, and he pointed out there have been no arrests of counter-protesters caught on video.
Ath Thon, head of the Cambodian Labor Confederation, who was also detained after the clashes, said Capitol Bus appeared to have the support of local authorities in Prampi Makara district. “They used thugs to beat us with weapons,” he said. “We held a protest with no weapons, and yet we’re arrested. This is unfair.”
Supporters for the fired bus drivers will continue to push forward, he said. “We cannot stop.”
Cambodia for Confederation Development Association officials could not be reached for comment Monday. Phou Kokvann, assistant director of Capitol Bus, denied the company had hired counter-protesters and said the company will pursue legal action against the protesters.