Category Archives: Protests

Human Rights Leaders Arrested Leaving US Embassy, Later Released


Land rights activist Yorm Bopha shouts as she is pulled into a police vehicle by authorities near the US embassy in Phnom Penh

Land rights activist Yorm Bopha shouts as she is pulled into a police vehicle by authorities near the US embassy in Phnom Penh. Pha Lina

Ban foes undeterred

Wed, 22 January 2014
Eleven rights activists delivering petitions to foreign embassies yesterday morning were pulled into waiting vans by district security forces and detained before being released after questioning in the early afternoon.

Dozens of men wielding batons and wearing navy blue uniforms and black motorcycle helmets arrived at the US embassy as a small number of activists gathered to deliver a petition signed by 181 NGOs calling for the release of 23 people jailed after a crackdown earlier this month.

Tep Vanny from the Boeung Kak lake community and Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Independent Teachers Association, were arrested as they left US embassy property along with a staff member of the Housing Rights Task Force (HRTF) and Chheang Thida, director of the Cambodia Union Association at the Kin Tay garment factory in Chak Angre Krom commune.

Shortly after her arrest, Vanny told the Post that she had been unjustly detained.

“We were questioned related to gathering at the US embassy to file the petition. The authorities always arrest me and other people without arrest warrants,” she said.

Two US embassy security guards were seen negotiating with the security forces and protesters during the stand-off.

Sean McIntosh, spokesman for the embassy, condemned the arrests, adding that the embassy officials were requesting that the activists demonstrate on public property across the street.

“The US embassy condemns the arrests of the activists today who were attempting to exercise their constitutional rights to peaceful assembly and expression,” he said. “We continue to urge the Cambodian authorities to rescind their ban on demonstrations in Phnom Penh.

“In keeping with security procedures, the group of activists was asked to conduct its demonstration in the public space across the street from the embassy.”

Another seven activists, including prominent Boeung Kak representative Yorm Bopha, were arrested when security forces blocked the road as they attempted to reach the French embassy on Monivong Boulevard.

The remaining activists then delivered petitions to the British embassy, the headquarters of Unicef and to Amnesty International Asia researcher for Cambodia Rupert Abbott, who had arrived at the Unicef offices to observe.

“We’re going to try to raise international awareness about what’s happening and call on the government to stop this crackdown and really try to look for a way forward,” Abbott said. “In the short-term, [we will try] to help bring national reconciliation and everybody together, but also in the long-run for systematic human rights reforms.”

Phay Siphan, spokesman for the Council of Ministers, said the arrests were a legitimate enforcement of the ban on public gatherings in the capital.

“The question is one of public order. The temporary ban has been issued from the City Hall,” he said. “Those people, the leaders of the demonstration, we can’t let them disturb public order. They were arrested and brought back to the Municipal Police office.”

Shortly after 11am, activists gathered at Phnom Penh Municipal Police Station to demand the release of the 11 detained protesters. All were released at 1:30pm after signing a document stating they will not “induce or participate” in illegal demonstrations.


Land rights activists call for the release of 23 detained people yesterday in front of the US embassy in Phnom Penh.

Land rights activists call for the release of 23 detained people yesterday in front of the US embassy in Phnom Penh. Pha Lina

Chhun of CITA said: “The government usually urges us to obey the law, but they are government forces and they did not obey the law. We just filed a petition to the embassies and we have not set up a protest or demonstration, but they arrested us. How can we believe in government to implement the law?”

Ou Virak, president of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, condemned the use of unofficial private security guards to enforce the ban on gatherings.

“They must be learning from China and Vietnam. These are basically hired thugs; it’s a lot easier to hire thugs than pay police properly. The police have been pretty bad, because the salaries are pretty low,” he said. “How do we know these people are trained to handle arrests? To me it’s illegal, but it tells me a lot about the Cambodian security sector.”

Government spokesman Siphan said he thought the practice was justified.

“They are hired by City Hall. We call them ‘police agents’. They are working at private security [firms] and are hired by City Hall to enforce public order. I don’t see what’s wrong with that,” he said.

Contact authors: Daniel Pye and Khouth Sophak Chakrya

Is Cambodia at a Tipping Point?


January 11, 2014 — Updated 0434 GMT (1234 HKT)
A man armed with a wooden stick rallies during a protest in front of a garment factory in Phnom Penh on January 3.
A man armed with a wooden stick rallies during a protest in front of a garment factory in Phnom Penh on January 3.
Story Highlights
  • Anti-government protests in Cambodia have recently taken a violent turn
  • Protests underscore ongoing tension between Prime Minister Hun Sen and opposition party
  • Ban on demonstration is criticized by human rights groups

Phnom Penh, Cambodia (CNN) — Earlier this week, Cambodia marked 35 years of freedom from the Khmer Rouge regime, whose revolutionary blueprint for an agrarian paradise caused the deaths of nearly two million in the 1970s.

But instead of uniting Cambodians, the date perennially divides them.

Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party casts the anniversary in the light of victory and liberation. Opposition figures shrug off the festivities as propaganda, a reminder that after the Khmer Rouge leaders retreated in 1979, the Vietnamese who defeated them stayed for 10 years.

The diverging perspectives underscore what’s happening now. In the name of public order and security, the government commemorating the fall of a regime is leading one of the most aggressive campaigns against dissenting foes in recent memory, according to analysts.

“Cambodia is now at a tipping point,” said Carl Thayer, a longtime observer of the country’s politics and a professor emeritus at the University of New South Wales in Australia.

In the past nine days, pro-government security forces have arrested human rights defenders, gunned down five striking garment workers and violently evicted protesters from a designated free speech zone called “Freedom Park.”

At least 3 dead after security forces open fire

Last weekend, the Ministry of Interior temporarily banned demonstrations and the courts have summoned opposition leaders Sam Rainsy, president of the Cambodia National Rescue Party, and his deputy, Kem Sokha.

“Cambodian authorities appear to have given up any semblance of democracy, rule of law or justice,” said Tola Moeun, head of the local advocacy group the Community Legal Education Center, in a statement earlier this week, after activists were briefly detained Monday in an apparent enforcement of the ban on demonstrations.

“The big questions are what is next and who will be next? This madness must end now.”

The United Nations’ human rights arm has urged an investigation into the violence, and major clothing manufacturers that conduct business in Cambodia — including H&M, the Gap and Inditex, the parent company of Zara — asked in a letter for a peaceful resolution.

Seeds of conflict

Seeds of turmoil were sown in July, when Hun Sen’s long-ruling CPP lost a chunk of parliamentary seats in the national elections, and Rainsy’s Cambodia National Rescue Party, or CNRP, almost doubled its own. But Rainsy and his supporters claimed they were robbed of crucial votes that would have put them in front, ending nearly 30 years of Hun Sen’s rule.

They demanded an international investigation into the election — which didn’t happen — and for Hun Sen to step down. Thousands of people took to the streets in protest.

While the opposition had floundered at times — revising its demands to include a new election — it appeared stronger than ever as 2013 came to a close.

The largely peaceful journey of civil disobedience began to veer off course on December 24, when unions, many of which line up politically with the opposition party, called for a nationwide garment worker strike, demanding an immediate monthly wage bump to $160 — nearly double the $95 that the government first offered, and well above the $100 that was eventually proposed as a final offer.

Soon, new groups joined. Tuk-tuk drivers demanded lower gasoline prices. Buddhist monks called for the authorities to find a stolen golden urn believed to contain ashes of the Buddha. All of the anger pointed in one direction.

Crackdown country

On the evening of January 2, the crackdown began.

In a protest outside a garment factory, authorities arrested 10 people, including garment workers and at least three human rights advocates, according to the Cambodian rights group Licadho. The arrested men face up to five years imprisonment.

The next day, anger erupted outside the Canadia Industrial Park in southwest Phnom Penh. Hundreds of garment workers threw rocks at security forces and created burning roadblocks. Some carried Molotov cocktails. Military police responded by firing automatic weapons. Five workers were killed in the bloody clash, the U.N. said this week. Almost 40 were injured, and 13 people arrested, according to Licadho.

On the hectic day of the confrontation, young men engaged in a standoff with a phalanx of riot police. One protester, In Chanthan, 26, who works at the park, was undeterred, cupping bullet casings in his hand as evidence. “Very cruel,” he said.

Authorities secured the area. The sun rose on empty factories, smashed shops looted by demonstrators, mourning families and fearful residents.

“I think Hun Sen believes he’s losing control of the situation,” said Brad Adams, executive director for Human Rights Watch’s Asia division. The prime minister has never really accepted the right to protest, he added.

The government defended its actions, saying it had allowed the opposition to protest for months. But members of the public complained, said Phay Siphan, spokesman for the Council of Ministers, a collection of top cabinet posts.

“The third party wants to use the street fairly. An ill person who wants medical attention gets blocked,” he said. “It’s too much.”

The forceful response on January 2 had to occur because a national road was being occupied by demonstrators, he said. At Canadia Industrial Park the following day, protesters had become aggressive, damaging factories and throwing rocks and using slingshots to project “iron balls” at authorities.

“It’s not a protest anymore, it became a riot,” he said, adding that the government feels sorry for those killed.

“We so regret that this happened, but they didn’t obey peacefully, to cease all activity.” he said.

Rallying point targeted

On the morning of January 4, pro-government security guards and plainclothed thugs wearing red armbands stampeded through the opposition’s main protest camp, Freedom Park, in the heart of the city, as tourists ate breakfast only blocks away. Police at the scene did nothing to stop them.

“The military force kicked the protesters,” said Soeng Piseth, 31, a microfinance worker who managed to escape.

City Hall issued a statement justifying the clearing of the park, saying it was an attempt to maintain order and security. The crowd “protested in an attempt to topple the government, and burned down garment factories,” said Mok Chito, head of the department of central justice in Cambodia’s Ministry of Interior.

Siphan justified the subsequent ban on demonstrations — which critics say is a crackdown on free speech and freedom of assembly — saying “there has to be a cool-down period. The divisions are so deep right now.”

In tandem with the eviction, summonses were dispatched to CNRP leaders Rainsy and Sokha, asking them to appear in court on January 14 to explain the turmoil. Sokha’s political activities had landed him in jail before, and Rainsy’s brushes with the government caused him to flee to France in 2009, returning last year on the coattails of a royal pardon.

By Sunday, January 5, security forces were stationed at various points in the capital.

A common refrain in recent weeks has been that the rallies represented the most serious threat to Hun Sen’s government in years. But after heavy-handed pressure in the first week of January, garment strikers have largely returned to work and opposition leaders are regrouping. Freedom Park is eerily empty.

On Thursday morning, when an opposition-affiliated youth group tried to sing a song inside the park, military police and security guards stopped them from getting into the main area, sending a clear message that the government will enforce its ban on demonstrations.

The opposition’s staying power and resilience are finally being put to test.

“We have to wait until the environment is a little bit calm,” said Yim Sovann, a CNRP spokesman, this week. He added that protests in the city would resume, though he didn’t say when.

Cambodia defends deadly crackdown on protests


Striking workers go back to work as government official says opposition’s actions made police to crack down on protest.

Cambodia’s government has defended its violent crackdown on anti-government protesters and striking garment workers as the ruling party marks what they call the victory day over the Khmer Rouge regime.

“The Cambodian People’s Party will do whatever to defend the constitution and the royal government of Cambodia that was formed through an election,” Heng Samrin, Chairman of the Cambodian National Assembly, said during a ceremony on Tuesday.

Violence overshadows Cambodia’s celebrations

The government was marking what it sees as the 35th anniversary of the victory day against the communist Khmer Rouge regime on Tuesday. The Khmer Rouge killed about one in five Cambodians after seizing power in 1975 up until 7 January 1979.

Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen made his first public appearance at the event since a violent crackdown, but did not comment about the operation that left four dead and many more injured.

Al Jazeera’s Scott Heidler, reporting from Phnom Penh, said on Tuesday that a high ranking government official addressed the crackdown during the ceremony, saying the opposition was “disrespecting the country’s laws” that prompted the response from the security forces.

Heidler reported that the government promised to continue seeking dialogue with the opposition.

Back to work

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of garment workers returned to work in Cambodia, ending a two-week pay dispute.

A union and the country’s garment factory association estimated that between 65 and 70 percent of workers had returned to factories as of Tuesday.

Cambodia has faced continuing trouble since an election in July last year that the opposition say was rigged.

“Now we are working on the diplomatic front, on the commercial front, on the legal front. We are in touch with unions and worker’s organisations all over the world to condemn violence on workers and to help workers to achieve that goal that demands $160 a month as the minimum wage,” said Cambodian opposition leader Sam Rainsy.

The protests are the biggest challenge in many years to the authoritarian rule of Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has led the country for almost three decades.

Protests over the election have been generally peaceful, but a strike by workers in Cambodia’s key garment sector has put extra pressure on Hun Sen’s regime.

Violent Weekend Crackdown on Labor Protests Led to End of Strike; Factories Reopen


Updated Jan. 6, 2014 12:35 p.m. ET

Workers carry a protester who was wounded during clashes. Zuma Press

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia—A nationwide strike in Cambodia’s garment industry petered out Monday after a violent weekend crackdown on political and labor protests, allowing most factories to resume production.

The fizzling of one of Cambodia’s largest strikes in recent years brought relief for many garment manufacturers, who have complained of mounting financial losses because of missed shipments and lost orders. The strike—started Dec. 24 by tens of thousands of workers demanding higher wages—also stoked concerns over a widening fallout for this Southeast Asian economy that relies heavily on garment manufacturing as its main export earner and biggest formal-sector employer.

Police in Phnom Penh prevented land-rights activists from filing a petition with France’s embassy on Monday. Getty Images

Union officials and workers halted their protest after police on Friday opened fire on a labor demonstration, killing at least four people and injuring dozens more. Authorities also arrested 13 workers before extending the crackdown to opposition supporters, dispersing them from their main rallying point in the capital on Saturday and banning further protests indefinitely.

Opposition leaders and rights groups have condemned the violence, but labor and industry officials credited the crackdown for ending the strike.

“Most, if not all, factories reopened today [Monday], though only about 50% to 60% of workers came back,” said Ken Loo, secretary-general of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia, which represents roughly 600 factories. “Many workers had gone back to their hometowns to avoid trouble, but they should be returning over the next few days,” he said.

Oum Mean, secretary of state at the Ministry of Labor, estimated that roughly 80% of factories were open Monday, excluding those in the vicinity of Veng Sreng Boulevard—the site of Friday’s shootings.

At Veng Sreng, located in southern Phnom Penh, the area’s convivial bustle has been muted by a heavy security presence. Since Saturday, heavily armed soldiers have patrolled the two-lane thoroughfare in jeeps—mounted with light machine guns—and heavy trucks, keeping a close watch on residents and the few workers who stayed behind. “There’s far less vehicle and pedestrian traffic than usual,” said Cheang Vinna, a 31-year-old who works at one of the factories along Veng Sreng Boulevard. “Most workers have left in fear.”

The strike started as a protest against the government’s offer last month to raise the industry minimum wage 19% to $95 a month, starting in April—well short of union demands for $160 a month. Workers then scorned a sweetened offer made by officials last week—a 25% increase to $100 a month, starting in February—and defied government orders to return to work by Jan 2.

The Asia Floor Wage Alliance, a group of trade unions and labor rights activists, estimates that a living wage for Cambodian garment workers should be $283 per month.

Unionists still hoped to achieve their goal, but said they would rethink their approach after the Friday’s clashes. “We don’t currently have plans for more protests since the situation has worsened. We don’t want to see more lives lost through violent suppression,” said Ken Chheanglang, vice president of the National Independent Federation Textile Union of Cambodia. “We appeal to workers to return to work and earn their wages first, while we decide our next strategy.”

Garment manufacturing is Cambodia’s biggest export business, supplying apparel to retailers mainly in the U.S. and European Union. The industry earned nearly $5.1 billion in the first 11 months of 2013, up 22% from the period in 2012, according to the Commerce Ministry. Cambodia has about 800 garment and footwear factories that employ about 600,000 workers, mostly women, labor officials say.

Manufacturers favor the country for its low-wage costs, but strikes are frequent because of what union leaders say is widespread discontent with meager salaries, poor working conditions and lax enforcement of labor laws.

Industry officials say it is difficult to gauge financial impact from the latest strike, though a rough assessment—based on historical export data and the number of working days lost—suggests that garment makers may have lost hundreds of millions of dollars in output.

Many factories have temporarily shifted production out of Cambodia while others may be considering a longer-term relocation, said Mr. Loo, the industry association official.

“Besides loss of production time and costs incurred on making alternative production and shipping arrangements, there are intangible costs as well,” such as reputational damage, he said.

Broader economic impact, however, should be limited barring any fresh flare-up in labor unrest, economists say. Chan Sophal, president of the Cambodian Economic Association, said he still expects economic growth in 2013 to come in at roughly 7%, as many had projected before the strike. “If the risks don’t recur, growth could be maintained at roughly 7% this year,” he said.

Write to Chun Han Wong at

Chairman Royce Responds to Reports of Violence in Cambodia


JAN 5, 2014

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, issued a statement following reports in Cambodia of elite military units and plainclothes policemen beating and murdering peaceful protesters:

“Hun Sen has brought Cambodia to the brink.  No longer content to marginalize the opposition, the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) is now killing peaceful protesters, and has issued warrants for both Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha, both who have been forced into hiding because of the CPP’s crackdown.  It’s time for Hun Sen to end his three-decade grip on power and step down.  The people of Cambodia deserve far better.”

Cambodia Cracks Down on Protest With Evictions and Ban on Assembly


  • Thomas Cristofoletti/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

  • Nicolas Axelrod/Getty Images

  • Samrang Pring/Reuters

  • Mak Remissa/European Pressphoto Agency

  • Heng Sinith/Associated Press

  • Heng Sinith/Associated Press

  • Heng Sinith/Associated Press

  • Samrang Pring/Reuters

  • Samrang Pring/Reuters

  • Samrang Pring/Reuters

  • Omar Havana/Getty Images

  • Luc Forsyth/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Published: January 4, 2014

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Seeking to quash one of the most serious challenges to the nearly 30-year rule of the country’s authoritarian leader, Cambodian authorities evicted antigovernment protesters on Saturday from a public square and banned all public gatherings as a court summoned two opposition leaders for police questioning.

After months of inaction in the face of growing public dissent to his rule, Prime Minister Hun Sen appeared to signal that he was entering a more aggressive posture toward his critics. The crackdown came after a clash on Friday between protesting garment workers and the Cambodian police that left four of the demonstrators dead. The workers have been at the forefront of growing protests against Mr. Hun Sen’s government.

Mr. Hun Sen’s party claimed victory in July elections, which the opposition and independent observers say were riddled with irregularities. Since then, the opposition has called for him to step down.

In a country with a history of violence against opposition figures, the two opposition leaders wanted for questioning, Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha, appeared to go into hiding.

“They are in a safe place,” said Mu Sochua, an opposition politician who was elected as a lawmaker in July but has boycotted Parliament along with the rest of the opposition.

Last weekend, the opposition staged a protest march of tens of thousands of people through the streets of Phnom Penh, an act of defiance on a scale rarely seen during Mr. Hun Sen’s more than 28 years in power. After the crackdown Saturday, the opposition announced it was canceling a march planned for Sunday.

In a statement, the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party urged its followers to remain calm “while the party seeks alternative ways” to continue its campaign against Mr. Hun Sen’s government.

Many parts of Phnom Penh were unaffected by the crackdown, including the main tourist area along the Mekong River. But elsewhere, hundreds of police officers and soldiers blocked roads, broke up crowds of bystanders and cordoned off the public square, known as Freedom Park, where the protesters had been gathering.

The dispersal of demonstrators from Freedom Park by the police and others was highly symbolic. In 2009 the government officially designated the square as a place where Cambodians could express themselves freely, roughly modeling it on Speakers’ Corner in London. The square has been the center of protests led by the opposition since the elections in July. Protesters who have camped out there since mid-December have included Buddhist monks, elderly farmers and human rights advocates.

The Cambodian Center for Human Rights, an independent advocacy organization, accused the government on Saturday of a “violent clampdown on human rights” and said protesters were chased out of the square by “thugs dressed in civilian clothes” who were armed with steel poles and other makeshift weapons, an observation corroborated by journalists who were present.

A number of protests during Mr. Hun Sen’s time in power have been broken up by shadowy groups. In 1997, a grenade attack on a protest led by Mr. Sam Rainsy left at least 16 people dead.

On Saturday, Cambodia’s Ministry of Interior issued a statement saying that the eviction of protesters “was conducted in a peaceful manner without any casualties.” Recent protests, the statement said, “led to violence, the blocking of public roads and the destruction of public and private property,” an apparent reference to the clashes between garment workers and soldiers on Friday, among other recent episodes.

The statement said all protests and public assembly were banned “until security and public order has been restored.” It also advised “all members of the national and international community to remain calm and avoid participating in any kind of illegal activity that could have negative consequences on the national interests.”

Mr. Hun Sen has been credited with stabilizing the country after the brutality of the Khmer Rouge, whose genocidal policies led to the deaths of 1.7 million Cambodians. But in recent years he has accumulated highly centralized power, including a praetorian guard that appears to rival the capabilities of the country’s regular military units.

Economic growth that has brought modernity and prosperity to Phnom Penh has exposed stark inequalities in the country, where well over a third of children are malnourished. Only one-quarter of the Cambodian population has access to electricity. The streets of Phnom Penh are shared by luxury cars and families of four squeezed onto dilapidated motorcycles.

Garment workers, who number in the hundreds of thousands, have been the most aggressive in seeking higher wages. Striking workers are demanding a doubling of the monthly minimum wage to $160 from $80, an increase that the industry says will make it uncompetitive.

In the clash on Friday, garment workers confronted officers with rocks, sticks and homemade firebombs. The police fired into the crowd with assault rifles, witnesses said. In addition to the protesters killed, at least 20 people were injured.

A version of this article appears in print on January 5, 2014, on page A9 of the New York edition with the headline: Cambodia Cracks Down on Protest With Evictions and Ban on Assembly.

Workers Face Police Gunfire Amid Unrest in Cambodia


  • Thomas Cristofoletti/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

  • Nicolas Axelrod/Getty Images

  • Samrang Pring/Reuters

  • Mak Remissa/European Pressphoto Agency

  • Heng Sinith/Associated Press

  • Heng Sinith/Associated Press

  • Heng Sinith/Associated Press

  • Samrang Pring/Reuters

  • Samrang Pring/Reuters

  • Samrang Pring/Reuters

  • Omar Havana/Getty Images

  • Luc Forsyth/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
A Cambodian protester carried a wounded worker in Phnom Penh.
Published: January 3, 2014

HONG KONG — Military police officers on Friday fired on protesters demanding higher wages for Cambodian garment workers, killing at least three people, officials said, as protests against the decades-old rule of Prime Minister Hun Sen entered a volatile new phase.

The garment workers are demanding a doubling of their monthly wages, and they have been at the forefront of growing protests against Mr. Hun Sen’s authoritarian government. On Sunday, tens of thousands of people rallied to demand that he step down.

But Friday’s violence south of Phnom Penh, the capital, was a sharp escalation in the unrest. Protesters resisted police efforts to break up the demonstrations, and some threw homemade explosives, setting fire to vehicles, and pelted officers with rocks and other projectiles. As the street battles raged, the police fired live ammunition and smoke canisters to try to quell the disturbances.

Another large opposition rally is planned for Sunday, again intended to turn out tens of thousands of people to force an end to Mr. Hun Sen’s rule. In July, Mr. Hun Sen’s party claimed victory in disputed elections that the opposition and many independent monitoring organizations said were deeply flawed.

The week of protests represents a surprisingly robust threat to the rule of Mr. Hun Sen, whose party tightly controls the police, the military, the judiciary and much of the news media.

Chuon Narin, deputy chief of the Phnom Penh Municipal Police, told The Associated Press that the three people who were killed in Friday’s violence died when police officers in a southern suburb of the capital fired AK-47 automatic rifles to clear a road that had been blocked by protesters who were burning tires and throwing objects.

“So far, three are confirmed dead, two injured, and two men were arrested by armed forces,” the deputy police chief said after the morning clash.

Some of the protesters were armed with cleavers and machetes, and at one point they set fire to a health clinic that demonstrators said refused to treat the injured.

One of the people who was shot, Ha Srey Oeun, 28, a garment worker, said she had not been taking part in the protests “because I’m four months pregnant and I was afraid I would be beaten up or struck.”

“I just went to buy some food for lunch,” Ms. Srey Oeun said. “I don’t know why I got shot. I was very far away from the protest group.”

Hospital officials said at least 23 people had been injured in the unrest.

Because of the violence, the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party withdrew on Friday from planned talks with the government that were aimed at trying to resolve the crisis. In pulling out of the talks, the group cited the violence against both the garment workers and monks taking part in the protests.

“We condemn the act of violence against the monks, against the workers who are demanding the minimum wage of $160,” Yim Sovann, an incoming opposition lawmaker,told The Phnom Penh Post. The garment workers currently receive a monthly minimum of $80.

Friday’s violence was an outgrowth of protests that began Thursday night, and police officers began moving in after midnight, only to be repelled by the demonstrators. The violent turn in the protests and the forceful police response have raised fears that the situation will spin out of control in the prelude to Sunday’s planned demonstration.

The capital has been rattled by labor unrest in recent days, with labor leaders calling a national strike last week because of anger over the government’s latest minimum-wage proposal. The garment industry is Cambodia’s largest source of export earnings, and the labor movement to increase wages in the sector is closely aligned with the political opposition to Mr. Hun Sen’s government, providing a deep well of support for the demonstrations.

A version of this article appears in print on January 4, 2014, on page A4 of the New York edition with the headline: Workers Face Police Gunfire Amid Unrest In Cambodia.