Monday, February 04, 2008


Hundreds of workers and their supporters battled police in the capital of Bangladesh on Friday in response to the beating death of one of their own by company goons. reports last Wednesday (30th Jan) two workers in World Dresses Ltd, Mirapur, Dhaka, The two were apparently almost the last of the workforce on the premises at 8pm, as they were washing themselves before leaving. Five officials appeared and accused them of loitering with intent to rob the company. They took the men to upper floor and started beating them mercilessly. Although they were seriously injured the garment officials did not take them to hospital immediately. One of the men died the other remains in the hospital in bad condition.

The dead man was later identified as Mohammad Khokon, 23. The injured worker is Abdul Malek.

Police said several officials and security guards of the factory were responsible for the beating.

The unrest that the incident created led to work stoppage in many factories in the area. More than 500 workers tried to put up barricades on a busy highway that connects the capital with southern and western Bangladesh and were attacked by police.

Bangladesh has more than 3,000 garment factories that employ more than 2 million workers, mostly women.

The textile industry earns the impoverished country more than $10 billion each year, mainly from exports to the United States and Europe, according to the Export Promotion Bureau.

In recent months harassment of labor and human rights activists by the government has intensified. Last Thursday Human Rights Watch said the government should immediately end the harassment of labor rights activists who are conducting legitimate activities to protect the rights of workers in the country.

“The interim government is abusing its emergency powers to target individuals who are trying to protect workers’ rights in Bangladesh’s most important export industry,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “This should set off alarm bells among donors and governments who don’t seem to understand or care how the authorities are using the state of emergency to systematically suppress basic rights.”

“International companies that source garments in Bangladesh should insist that the Bangladeshi government end harassment of labor rights activists,” said Adams. “They should make it clear that labor organizing and activism is part of the deal when operating in the world economic system and that they will not accept it if activists are jailed, intimidated or harassed by the authorities.”

Bangladesh has been under a state of emergency since January 11, 2007. The emergency rules have placed serious limits on civil and political rights, and have severely diluted constitutional protections of individual rights. In a letter to the government dated August 1, 2007, Human Rights Watch called for the lifting of the state of emergency.

The following is from Independent Bangladesh.

'Hundreds protest RMG worker’s death

At least 10 garments workers were injured Friday morning as the police charged at them with truncheons when the workers rallied at Mirpur Section 1 in Dhaka demanding punishment for the people responsible for the death of a worker.

Mohammad Khokon, 22, a worker of the World Dresses Limited, who was beaten Wednesday night by the factory management on suspicion of being involved in stealing, died in Dhaka Medical College Thursday morning.

Along with Khokon, another worker, Abdul Malek, was beaten. Critically injured, Malek was taken to Dhaka Medical College Hospital Thursday morning and then was shifted to Orthopaedics Hospital.

The agitated workers on Friday blocked the road stretch from the Mirpur Section 1 crossing to the Technical College point, suspending traffic for two hours and a half till 10:30am.

Witnesses said several hundred workers of the World Dresses Limited, a sister concern of the Vertex Group housed in Khalil Bhaban at Mirpur, gathered at the factory gate at about 7:30am.

As the factory management announced a general holiday, the workers brought out a procession in protest at the killing. They demanded punishment for the people responsible for the death of their fellow.

A large number of law enforces were deployed at the place. The lawmen asked the demonstrators to call off the blockade at about 9:00am. Immediately after, the deployment of lawmen was reinforced.

They started charging at the workers with truncheons at around 9:30am in which 10 workers were injured.

The workers then pelted the lawmen with stones, said Milon, a worker injured in the incident. He said the police fired three teargas shells to disperse the demonstrators, leading to a clash.

The demonstrators left the place at about 10:45am as the Rapid Action Battalion and the joint forces personnel started patrolling the area.

The World Dresses Limited managing director, Osman Gani Talukder, along with former BGMEA vice-president Abdus Salam Morshedi, BGMEA director Golam Sarwar Milon and chief of the BGMEA crisis management cell Khaled Monsur reached the place and held a meeting with the workers in the presence of high police officials at about 11:15am.

After the meeting, Osman Gani announced that the company had already given Tk 1,50,000 to Khokon's family and Tk 350,000 more would be given very soon. He said he would also give Tk 25,000 to Malek for his treatment cost.

He also announced all the workers of the factory would get the attendance and refreshment allowances for Friday. Mirpur zone police deputy commissioner Anwar Hossain said, 'The situation is now under control as the factory management has fulfilled all the demands of the workers.' A government handout, meanwhile, said the situation was under control and 1,800 of the 2,000 joined work.

The handout said the factory management had given a portion of the amount it earlier announced to give to Khokon's family in compensation and the rest of the amount would be given on Saturday.

The insurance money of Tk 1 lakh will be paid in a month. Of the accused, two have been arrested and others will be arrested soon, the handout said. Malek filed a case with the Mirpur police against the factory management in this connection Thursday evening.

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