Thousands of textile workers protest for higher wages in Bangladesh

DHAKA, May 22, 2006 (AFP) – Several people were injured when security forces fired live rounds to disperse tens of thousands of textile workers protesting for higher wages near the Bangladesh capital Monday, police said. The protest started around noon at the Export Processing Zone, and its adjoining areas at Ashulia, 40 kilometres (25 miles) north of Dhaka, when an estimated 100,000 workers came onto the streets demanding higher wages, area police chief Jamiruddin Ahmed said.

The protesters wielding bamboo sticks set fire to two factories and six buses after the owners prevented their workers from joining the rally, Ahmed said.

A senior police official said the protesters ransacked at least 30 factories and smashed dozens of buses and cars.

“The unruly workers of the factory then agitated on the streets, blockading the highway and smashing vehicles. They forced workers at other factories to join them,” Ahmed said, adding that police rescued a factory owner from the mob.

Police and paramilitary forces in the zone shot at the workers to disperse the crowd, said the security officer for the export zone, Rezaul Karim.

Shahedur Rahman, a senior police officer at the scene, said at least seven people were