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Month January 2014

Letter From Southeast Asia

Cambodia
January 7, 2013, 5:15 am

National strike called days ago. Some big protests and pickets but some went back to work because they don’t have any money to eat. Overnight mass strike of workers from various factories marched from one workplace to another (garment workers, still fighting for $160 monthly minimum wage after government raised it to $95 recently) growing in size until they set up a large picket in front of a single factory. Blockaded a road from both sides. Clashes with police ongoing. Military arrived and opened fire to clear the picket. Several killed, even more wounded.A clinic wouldn’t treat injured strikers, so they occupied the clinic.A labor leader was beaten badly and arrested, then a massive crowd gathered in front of the place he was being held to demand his release which lead to such a bog down that one of the largest markets in the capital had to be completely shut down.The opposition CNRP continues to try to co-opt this into its hyper-nationalist / populist program (one leg of their platform is the $160 minimum wage). Three day morning protest called in the park they’ve been occupying for weeks just now.The companies to which Gap and Nike (which sell $2 shoes for $150 in the West) outsource say the raise to $160 monthly minimum wage is “untenable"; there were threats to move the factories this morning. The ruling government said it would “support” that move, apparently an effort to scare the strikers back to work.

Coverage in the Western media:

Coverage here (a lot more graphics, including pictures of dead strikers):

Journalist rehash of what I already said:

Hundreds of young men and some women armed with sticks, rocks and Molotov cocktails confronted military police armed with AK-47s, riot shields and batons on Friday, following a night of fighting between both sides at the same location.Barricades continued to burn and rubble was strewn across the road as both sides continued to clash Friday morning and afternoon. A medical clinic was destroyed by the demonstrators—mostly striking garment factory workers—allegedly because the clinic had refused to treat those injured by military police gunfire.Hundreds of military police are deployed near the entrance of the Canadia Industrial Park, which is the center of the ongoing conflict, and pitched battles continued with military police unable to contain the rioting.