District security guards, often used to break up demonstrations and beat protesters, were mobilized Tuesday to help clean up the city as hundreds of Phnom Penh’s trash collectors continued their strike over pay and working conditions.
City Hall spokesman Long Dimanche said 60 Cintri trucks returned to Phnom Penh’s streets Tuesday afternoon, but that the city mobilized additional manpower to ensure that things were in order for a ceremony later this week in which the ashes of the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk will be interred.
“We had worries about this situation because it is close to the ceremony to inter the late King’s ashes,” he said. “We used public security guards from each district to help the drivers.”
Ngoun Sipheng, the operations manager for Cintri, the city’s sole trash collector, estimated that 80 percent of the firm’s drivers were back at work Tuesday after the firm agreed to two demands: replacing military police stationed at the company’s depot with security guards, and the removal of the unpopular depot chief.
However, Mr. Sipheng said the company could not afford to meet the demands being made by the remaining workers—health, housing and travel payments totaling $35 per month plus an annual seniority bonus.
“The company cannot accept this request from the workers. We follow the Labor Law and this protest was incited by the union,” he said.
But trash collector Vorn Ry, 32, one of the workers still striking, vowed to press on with their demands.
“Our salary is less than $100 [and] we work with garbage, we face the risk of health problems and traffic accidents, so we want them to resolve our problems first,” he said.
Shopkeeper Y Muth, 63, whose store is situated on an alleyway off Street 144 that is blocked by a large rubbish heap, appealed to City Hall and Cintri to clean up the mess.
“These days the city has become too much like a garbage city,” she said.