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B’desh workers vent fury, disaster toll may top 500

Tens of thousands of Bangladeshis joined May Day protests Wednesday to demand the execution of textile bosses over the collapse of a factory complex, as rescuers  warned the final toll could be more than 500.

Workers holding red banners and flags chanted ‘Hang the killers, Hang the Factory Owners’ as they took to the streets of Dhaka at the start of a series of nationwide demonstrations during the public holiday.

Police put the number of protesters at the main rally in Dhaka at more than 20,000, and there were smaller-scale protests elsewhere in the capital and in other cities.

Kamrul Anam, one of the leaders of the Bangladesh Textile and Garments Workers League, said the demonstrators were angry at ‘the murder’ of their colleagues in the April 24  disaster at Savar on the outskirts of Dhaka.

‘We want the severest punishment possible for those responsible for this tragedy,’ he told AFP. ‘Enough is enough,’ said Liakot Khan, another of those taking part in the Dhaka protest, which echoed to the sound of drums and horns.

‘The government should hang the proprietor and the factory owners. We want justice for these murders.’

The Bangladesh government is also facing foreign pressure to take credible moves to raise safety standards in the garment industry, with the collapse at the Rana Plaza factory complex only the latest in a series of deadly disasters. The European Union said late Tuesday that it would look at steps to promote better practices in a sector that depends on Western brands, with clothes from retailers Primark, Benetton and Mango manufactured recently at the site. With bulldozers busy clawing through the ruins of the eight-storey complex, military spokesman Mir Rabbi said  the confirmed death toll now stood at 402.
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