STATEMENT: ADHOC Condemns the Disproportionate Use of Force Against Protesters

Phnom Penh, 3 January 2013 – The Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC) denounces the indiscriminate and disproportionate use of force that was used today by the military police against garment workers demanding their wages be doubled, which resulted in the killing of 5 protesters.

Following three weeks of peaceful demonstrations, tensions increased yesterday as authorities cracked down against demonstrators protesting minimum wages for the garment factory industry. By night-fall, 15 people had been arrested by Military Special Command Unit 911, including human rights defender and President of the Independent and Democracy of Information Economic Association (IDEA), Vorn Pov and Theng Savuen from the Coalition of Cambodian Farmer Community (CCFC), along with eight workers and five monks.  Many more suffered injuries.

Clashes continued into the night, and by morning the road remained blocked. At that time strikers moved into the Canadia Industrial Park, where they tried to gather support from other workers. Hundreds of military police were deployed to Veng Sreng street in order to break up the demonstration.

Striking workers launched rocks and Molotov cocktails towards military police who retaliated by opening fire into the crowd. This resulted in the killing of 5 people: Yan Vathy (23) from Prey Veng, who was shot in the stomach; Kim Pallin, (28) from Phnom Penh, and three other unidentified men. One of the three unidentified casualties, who was shot in the back, was transported to Wat Tuol pagoda around 12pm. 15 people were arrested and more than 20 suffered injuries.

Around 3 in the afternoon, riot police took control of the area outside of the Canadia factory, moving through the street in waves. Riot police then moved towards the Phnom Penh Municipal Court of First Instance, where another group of protesters was demanding the release of the ten people arrested the day before. All ten have been charged with Articles 411 (“Intentionally causing damage with aggravating circumstances”) and Article 218 (“Acts of violence with aggravating circumstances”) of the Penal Code 2009.

ADHOC is alarmed by the unprecedented and indiscriminate display of force and the use of lethal weapons against protesters. ADHOC strongly condemns the government’s use of overwhelming violence in dispelling the protesters and the increasing deployment of Military Special Forces to break up demonstrations. We call upon the government to conduct proper investigations into today’s events and to ensure full accountability for members of security forces found to have used disproportionate force during the clashes. While urging protestors to ensure that the demonstrations remain peaceful, ADHOC also calls on the authorities to respect their national and international commitments regarding the fundamental human rights of freedom of association, assembly and expression.

For more information, please contact:

Mr. Ny Chakrya, Head of Human Rights and Legal Aid Section: 011 274 959

Mr. Chan Soveth, Senior Investigator: 016667373