| PHNOM PENH, March 31
PHNOM PENH, March 31 Cambodian police used
batons to break up a protest on Monday by opposition party
supporters demanding a licence be granted for a new television
channel, clashes that rights groups said left two people
The demonstration by about 100 people was the latest to turn
violent in Cambodia, where the ruling party of long-serving
Prime Minister Hun Sen is facing an unprecedented slew of
challenges over issues from factory wages and land grabs to
graft and alleged vote-rigging in an election last year.
Police and guards working for Phnom Penh city authorities
beat protesters with batons, local rights groups Licadho and
It was the second time in two months the opposition had
gathered to urge the Information Ministry to approve the new
channel, which is being spearheaded by popular radio personality
Mam Sonando, a government critic.
"Authorities implemented the law to prevent anarchy. This
rally was illegal," Long Dimanche, a spokesman for the city
authorities, said of the dispersal. He said a protester was
detained for incitement.
The opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) says
the country's fast-growing broadcast media are under the control
of its adversaries in the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP),
whom they accuse of fixing last year's election to retain power.
The CNRP has won support from unions representing 350,000
disgruntled garment factory workers since late last year to hold
strikes over pay and attend anti-government rallies, some of the
biggest the country has ever seen.
The strikes and protests have often ended in violence, the
worst on Jan. 3, when five textiles workers were killed when
security forces fired live ammunition outside a factory.
The use of force and bans on gatherings has had a chilling
impact. CNRP leader Sam Rainsy had planned a rally on Sunday of
5,000 people at a Phnom Penh park, but the venue was changed at
the last minute and only a few hundred showed up after the
authorities vowed to break up the protest.
Recently, 18 unions postponed a week-long strike until April
17. Some union leaders face court action over their roles in the
unrest, or allegations of graft.
"The rights to peaceful assembly is the target of the
crackdown by authorities," said Chan Soveth, a human rights
worker at Adhoc. "People have become hesitant to participate in
A government-appointed committee assigned to investigate the
strikes said in a report the textile industry had been hit with
over $72 million of losses in 95 factories. It blamed the CNRP
and the aligned trade unions.
(Editing by Martin Petty and Ron Popeski)