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Big brands pressure Cambodia on protest shootings

13 march 2012, 13:24
Photo courtesy of blogspot.com
Photo courtesy of blogspot.com
Retail giants Puma, Gap and H&M have urged Cambodia to fully probe the recent shooting and wounding of protesting garment workers as the sole suspect, a local governor, remained at large Monday, AFP reports.

The international buyers voiced "deep concern" over the February 20 incident in which a gunman opened fire at a rally by thousands of workers demanding better working conditions at factories in eastern Svay Rieng province.

Bavet City governor Chhuk Bundith, since named by government officials as the suspected perpetrator, was last week removed from his post.

But he has yet to be arrested and his current whereabouts are unclear, to the dismay of rights campaigners who have long criticised the country's culture of impunity.

"During the unrest, three female workers of Puma supplier Kaoway Sports Ltd. were shot and injured," the brands said in a letter sent to the Cambodian commerce ministry on March 9 and seen by AFP on Monday.

"We respectfully urge the Royal Government of Cambodia to conduct a full and transparent investigation... and hold those responsible for injuring workers accountable," said the signatories, which also included American Eagle Outfitters, The Jones Group and Columbia Sportswear Company.

After initially remaining tight-lipped on the issue, the government said last week that Chhuk Bundith would be questioned over the shooting.

"I have summoned him to testify on March 16," Svay Rieng court prosecutor Hing Bunchea told AFP.

The textile industry is a key source of foreign income for Cambodia and employs more than 300,000 people, mostly women.

Tension between staff and bosses erupted in 2010 when tens of thousands of workers went on strike until the government stepped in and arranged talks with manufacturers.

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