Cambodian forces disperse opposition rally

Phnom Penh police were not visibly armed but acted forcefully and were joined by plainclothes men carrying iron pipes.

    Cambodian authorities have forced opposition protesters to evacuate their rally base in the capital, a day after police launched a deadly crackdown on striking garment workers.

    Dozens of anti-riot police armed with shields and batons flooded into the area in central Phnom Penh, causing about a 1,000 protesters to flee, according to an AFP photographer at the scene.

    Protesters, backed by the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party which claims it has been robbed off a victory in the 2011 elections, have camped in Freedom Park since mid-December in demand for better wages.

    They beat us like they beat animals. I am very scared.

    Lang Rith, 29-year-old protester

    "They won't be allowed to rally, to protest, or to hold any political activities at the park any more," military police spokesman Kheng Tito told AFP, adding that police had not used force.

    About 500,000 Cambodians are employed in the garment industry, which is worth $5bn a year to the economy in exports. The government has offered $100 as a minimum monthly wage, short of a $160 wage pledged by the opposition CNRP.

    Lang Rith, a 29-year-old demonstrator from southern Takeo province, said
    he was hit with baton on his back as he tried to run away from the park.
    ``They beat us like they beat animals. I am very scared,'' Lang Rith said.

    At least four striking garment protesters were killed on Friday in what rights campaigners condemned as the country's worst state violence against civilians in more than a decade.

    Friday's crackdown marks a violent turning point in what has generally been peaceful protests since the elections.

    Strongman Prime Minister Hun Sen may be facing the biggest challenge to his 28-year rule, amid mounting pressures from textile workers and opposition supporters demanding that he steps down and calls for a new election.

    Hun Sen, who last month ruled out holding new elections or stepping down, was given parliamentary approval for a new five-year term in late September. The opposition decried that as a "constitutional coup".

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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