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Cambodian anti-riot police, striking garment workers clash, 2 arrested

PHNOM PENH, Jan. 3 (Xinhua) -- Hundreds of Cambodian anti-riot police and striking garment workers clashed for the third time in a week early Friday, leaving both sides injured and 2 protesters arrested, Kheng Tito, spokesman for the National Military Police, said.

"The violence broke out at 1:00 a.m. over midnight at the Canadia Industrial Park on the outskirts of Phnom Penh when hundreds of protesters tried to destroy factories' properties and set a security guard's motorcycle on fire," he told Xinhua. "They tried to cause social unrest; we have to crack down on them."

He said two protesters were arrested as nine police officers and several strikers were injured in the two-hour clash.

It was the third clash between the authorities and garment strikers within a week. The first violence broke out at the Phnom Penh Special Economic Zone last Friday, leaving three police officers and four strikers injured, and the second one occurred on Thursday at a garment factory on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, leaving 15 protesters arrested and several injured.

Cambodia has closed all garment and shoe factories since Wednesday last week after six pro-opposition trade unions led thousands of workers to go on strikes to demand the government to double the monthly minimum wage in the garment sector to 160 U.S. dollars from the current 80 U.S. dollars.

The government decided on Tuesday to raise the minimum wage in the garment sector to 100 U.S. dollars from the current 80 U.S. dollars a month; however, the six pro-opposition trade unions rejected the offer and vowed to go on strikes.

The Southeast Asian nation has about 900 garment and shoe factories employing about 600,000 workers, according to Labor Ministry spokesman Heng Sour. The industry, the kingdom's largest foreign exchange earner, generated 5 billion U.S. dollars in revenues a year.

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