At least three people were killed today when police in Cambodia opened fire to break up a protest by striking garment workers demanding a doubling of the minimum wage, police and human rights workers said. Police said the three were killed and two others were wounded in a southern suburb of the capital when 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. The incident followed another violent clash yesterday at a different location that saw 10 people arrested. Police described today's protesters as anarchists who were destroying public and private property. They were cleared from the street, at least temporarily, by early afternoon.
An observer from the human rights group Adhoc said his group had tallied three dead and 10 hurt, seven apparently with gunshot wounds. The violence comes at a time of political stress in the country, as the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party has protested daily for Prime Minister Hun Sen to step down and call elections. The opposition has close ties to the labor movement, and as the garment industry is Cambodia's biggest export earner, workers at most of the country's more than 500 garment factories represent a potent political force. They're on strike, demanding an increase in the minimum wage to $160 a month, double the current rate. The government has offered $100 a month. (Read more Cambodia stories.)