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Four Kazakh Hunger Strikers Hospitalized

ZHANAOZEN, Kazakhstan -- Four Kazakh hunger strikers have been hospitalized after protesting policies and layoffs at the private Burghylau oil company, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports.

The workers at Burghylau, in the town of Zhanaozen, had been on hunger strike since March 20.

The hunger strikers told RFE/RL that their major demand is that the company be nationalized and merged with the state KazMunaiGaz company.

They also said the company has started laying workers off because of the global economic downturn and that they have no other means to protest.

Meanwhile, Burghylau's director, Tolegen Azhibayev, told RFE/RL that his company has lost more than $1 million because of the strike, adding that he is doing his best to weather the economic crisis.

Twelve other oil workers are continuing their hunger strike.