Unrest erupts in Bangladesh’s troubled garment hub

DHAKA, May 20, 2013 (AFP) – Bangladeshi police fired rubber bullets and tear gas at thousands of garment workers Monday as they demanded a wage hike at a protest in a manufacturing hub outside the capital Dhaka. Police said they reacted after workers blocked a key highway in the Ashulia industrial area, home to hundreds of factories which make clothing for Western retailers such as Walmart.

Factories in the hub only reopened last week following unrest sparked by the country’s worst industrial tragedy, which killed more than 1,100 people.

“They were demanding higher wages. We fired rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse them after they became violent and occupied a road,” Ashulia police chief Badrul Alam told AFP, saying that some of the protesters had hurled stones at police and attacked vehicles.

Alam said about 20,000 workers took part in the protest, but the area head of industrial police, Mustafizur Rahman, put the number at around 12,000.

Ekattor television, a private channel, said 50 people were injured in clashes between the workers and police.

Plants at Ashulia reopened on Friday after two weeks of unrest following the collapse of a nine-storey garment factory complex near Dhaka