Asia-Pacific News

Witnesses say Cambodian police fire on strikers

Cambodian workers clash with military police during a garment workers' protest to demand higher wages in front of a factory in Phnom Penh on January 3, 2014.
Tang Chhin Sothy | AFP | Getty Images

Several striking Cambodian garment workers were wounded Friday when police opened fire during a confrontation with the protesters, witnesses said.

An Associated Press photographer and human rights workers said police fired AK-47 rifles after several hundred workers blocking a road south of the capital Phnom Penh began burning tires and throwing objects at them. Several wounded workers could be seen after the shots were fired.

Chan Soveth of the human-rights group Adhoc said one person was killed and at least five wounded, but the death could not be immediately confirmed by officials or medical authorities.

(Read more: Thousands of Cambodians rally to demand PM steps down)

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The workers are part of a nationwide strike demanding a doubling of the minimum wage to $160 a months. About 500,000 Cambodian are employed in the garment industry, the country's biggest export earner. The government has offered $100 a month.

The clash comes a day after Cambodian soldiers forcefully quelled a separate demonstration by striking workers, detaining Buddhist monks and labor leaders.

The violence comes at a time of political stress, as the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party has protested daily for Prime Minister Hun Sen to step down and call elections.

(Read more: Roof Collapse at Cambodian Shoe Plant Kills Three: Minister)

Hun Sen won elections last July that extended his 28-year rule in the poor Southeast Asia nation, but protesters led by opposition head Sam Rainsy accuse him of rigging the vote. Hun Sen has rejected their demand.

Although the wage and election issues are not directly linked, Cambodia's opposition has had long and close ties with the country's labor movement.