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Cambodia defends deadly crackdown on protests

Striking workers go back to work as government official says opposition's actions made police to crack down on protest.

Last updated: 07 Jan 2014 11:25
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Cambodia's government has defended its violent crackdown on anti-government protesters and striking garment workers as the ruling party marks what they call the victory day over the Khmer Rouge regime.

"The Cambodian People's Party will do whatever to defend the constitution and the royal government of Cambodia that was formed through an election," Heng Samrin, Chairman of the Cambodian National Assembly, said during a ceremony on Tuesday.

Violence overshadows Cambodia's celebrations

The government was marking what it sees as the 35th anniversary of the victory day against the communist Khmer Rouge regime on Tuesday. The Khmer Rouge killed about one in five Cambodians after seizing power in 1975 up until 7 January 1979.

Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen made his first public appearance at the event since a violent crackdown, but did not comment about the operation that left four dead and many more injured.

Al Jazeera's Scott Heidler, reporting from Phnom Penh, said on Tuesday that a high ranking government official addressed the crackdown during the ceremony, saying the opposition was "disrespecting the country's laws" that prompted the response from the security forces.

Heidler reported that the government promised to continue seeking dialogue with the opposition.

Back to work

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of garment workers returned to work in Cambodia, ending a two-week pay dispute.

A union and the country's garment factory association estimated that between 65 and 70 percent of workers had returned to factories as of Tuesday.

Cambodia has faced continuing trouble since an election in July last year that the opposition say was rigged.

"Now we are working on the diplomatic front, on the commercial front, on the legal front. We are in touch with unions and worker's organisations all over the world to condemn violence on workers and to help workers to achieve that goal that demands $160 a month as the minimum wage," said Cambodian opposition leader Sam Rainsy.

The protests are the biggest challenge in many years to the authoritarian rule of Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has led the country for almost three decades.

Protests over the election have been generally peaceful, but a strike by workers in Cambodia's key garment sector has put extra pressure on Hun Sen's regime.

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Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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