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Union Rep Hospitalized After Assault

Hundreds of Cambodian garment workers Monday held a strike to demand their monthly salary raise to US 93 dollars from the current $61.

A factory representative for the Free Trade Union was severely beaten and hospitalized on Thursday, union officials and police said.

Phao Sak, 26, was in serious condition in Calmette hospital in Phnom Penh following the assault.

Union representatives said Phao Sok had tried to bargain for worker bonuses at the Generation clothing factory in Samrong Thong district, Kampong Speu province, ahead of the Pchum Ben national holiday.

Phao Sak was driving on his motorcycle from school to the factory when two unidentified men attacked him near the factory, according to the union, which cited witnesses in a statement Thursday.

The two men hit him repeatedly over the head with boards, the statement said.

“This is not an accident,” Chea Mony, president of the union, said Thursday. “It is an attempted assassination of a Free Trade Union representative.”

Free Trade Union representatives are repeatedly beaten for confronting factories over conditions and incomes, he said.

No suspects have been arrested.

Samrong Thong District Police Chief Khuth Sophal denied the case was an attempted murder. “I think maybe it's because of a drunken altercation. However, police will investigate.”

The Free Trade Union of Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia was not among those who participated in a general strike last week, but it is among the most powerful unions in Cambodia's garment sector.

In 2004, the union's president, Chea Vichea, was shot and killed by unknown assailants. At least three other union leaders have been killed since then.

Tensions between factories and workers have run high for weeks, with employees demanding better incomes in the face of rising living costs and factories facing competition in a shrunken global marketplace.