Strike Justified, Suppression Not, Experts Say
By | February 26, 2014

Garment workers’ calls for a $160 minimum wage are justified and should be honored, a new report by an international team of academics and labor experts has found.

The authors—including a team from the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies, South Korean and Philippine union groups, and the Asia Monitor Resource Center in Hong Kong—traveled to Cambodia to speak with workers and union activists following the government’s suppression of garment strikes in January during which five people were killed.

“The demand of Cambodian workers to lift the minimum wage to $160 is fair and reasonable, as their real wages have been stagnant despite their tremendous contribution to Cambodia’s economic growth,” states the 52-page report, which will be released officially on Thursday in Hong Kong.

“The disproportionate use of force by the government to suppress these legitimate protests demonstrates that the government is more concerned with protecting the interests and profits of the employers of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC) than protecting the workers’ rights to a decent living wage, freedom of association and other basic human rights,” it continues.

The investigating team found that workers were driven to protest based on three main issues: poor wages, “dismal” working conditions, and a “lack of democratic space to address workers’ concerns.”

The team that conducted the research said their aim was to understand the workers’ perspectives and motivations for taking to the streets, but found that many workers were now scared to broach the subject of what happened on January 2 and 3.

“The violent repression of workers’ protests causing deaths was unprecedented, excessive and unnecessary causing a human rights emergency,” it said.

GMAC Secretary-General Ken Loo said he could not comment until he had read the report.

GMAC has said that a $160 minimum wage would drive brands away from Cambodia. The Ministry of Labor, however, found in its 2013 annual report that a minimum living wage for garment workers would be between $157 and $177 per month.

© 2014, The Cambodia Daily. All rights reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced in print, electronically, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without written permission.

LATEST

Preah Sihanouk provincial governor Chhit Sokhon ordered three construction sites near Sihanoukville’s O’Tres Beach to scale back their projects on Friday after the owners overstepped building limitations, officials said Sunday.

On the Sesan and Srepok rivers in the northeast, boats of all shapes and sizes lug timber back and forth between the banks. Men wait on craggy land alongside the water with jerry-rigged winches and homemade vehicles to drag precious cargo up steep inclines. Fallen logs bob around in the shallows.

Military police on Saturday razed two marijuana plantations they found on a remote mountaintop in Kampot province’s Toek Chhou district, a military police official said Sunday.

Land Management Minister Im Chhun Lim intervened in a high-profile land dispute between villagers from Kratie province’s Snuol district and a South Korean agribusiness firm over the weekend, announcing Saturday that the contested 1,562-hectare tract would be taken back from the company and awarded to local residents.

Sichan Siv, a former U.S. ambassador to the U.N., was summoned by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court last month and ordered to remain in Cambodia following allegations that he and two business partners defrauded a Phnom Penh dentist out of $1 million, officials have confirmed.

The Cambodia Daily | All the News Without Fear or Favor | The Daily Newspaper of Record Since 1993