Things are getting serious again in western Kazakhstan. This oil-rich region on the Caspian Sea was the scene over several months in 2011 of prolonged labor unrest, culminating in clashes that December that killed at least a dozen people.
The shock waves from this violence led to government pledges to improve labor relations and to “modernize trade union institutions.” Now, again, in the midst of winter, there are more labor protests and another crackdown.
Kazakhstan sees itself as a regional hub for foreign investment, but Astana could experience unintended consequences if it continues on this path.
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Hugh Williamson is director, Europe & Central Asia division, Human Rights Watch.