Press ReleaseStop Gun Violence Impunity: Arrest and Prosecute the Svay Rieng Shooter
February 21, 2012 - After years of blatant impunity for similar crimes, the latest shooting of three young women while protesting for better working conditions in Svay Rieng province comes as little surprise. Gun violence directed at unarmed protestors has been on the rise recently throughout Cambodia.
"This latest shooting appears to be a clear-cut case of attempted murder," said Am Sam Ath, from LICADHO. "Reports indicate that the gunman shot directly at the protesting workers. There can be no question that such actions constitute premeditation and an intent to kill under the Penal Code."
Over one thousand workers from three factories in the Manhattan Special Economic Zone in Bavet city were protesting for better working conditions, including a salary increase of $10 per month over their $61 per month minimum wage salary, when the widely reported shooting occurred on Monday morning. The workers were also seeking transportation subsidees and 50 cents per day for lunch.
One of the factories targeted by the protests was Kaoway Sports, which supplies footwear to global company PUMA. International brands Clarks, New Balance, Ecko, K 1 X and Body Glove source from the other two factories: Kingmaker and Sheico.
Although garment and textile exports have sky-rocketed in recent years, and now total $4.25 billion compared with $3.4 billion last year, Cambodia's minimum wage for factory workers has remained the lowest of all its neighbouring states.
"According to the Peoples' Tribunal on Minimum Living Wage and Decent Working Conditions as a Fundamental Human Right, recent calculations based on undisputed nutritional needs show Cambodia's workers earn less than a third of a living wage," said Yeng Virak, CLEC Executive Director. "At the current rate, workers are at risk of consuming far too few calories per day. They can't even begin to think about saving for their futures."
The three victims of this most recent shooting ranged in age from 18 to 23. All three were employed by the Kaoway Sports factory. The injuries, all located on the upper body and including one severe chest wound, clearly indicate an intent to kill. The most seriously injured woman had to be transferred to the Cambodian capital's Calmette hospital, where she continues to fights for her life.
Witnesses report that military police at the scene fired their automatic weapons into the air immediately following the shooting. Despite the presence of many officers at the scene, the gunman was able to flee in an automobile.
In the past few months, there have been at least five incidents of armed guards, including police and military police officers, intentionally firing at villagers embroiled in ongoing land disputes in five separate provinces. Arrests have occurred in relation to just one of those incidents.
"Unless arrest and prosecution of these crimes to the full limits of the law becomes the rule and not the rare exception, as it currently stands, the frequency of such violence will no doubt continue to increase," said Naly Pilorge, Director of LICADHO.
LICADHO and CLEC urge the authorities to conduct a thorough investigation of this shooting. We also call on the buyers of goods produced at these factories, in particular PUMA, to cease relying on the biased information supplied by the factories themselves, and to send a team of investigators to conduct their own reviews of the incident instead. All buyers involved in Cambodia must make it clear to both the factories and the government that such violence is unacceptable and has serious consequences.
For more information, please contact:
• Mr. Am Sam Ath, Technical Supervisor for LICADHO, 012-327-770
• Ms. Pilorge Naly, LICADHO Director, 012 803 650
• Mr. Yeng Virak, CLEC Executive Director, 012 801 235