Striking Garment Factory Workers Join CNRP Protest Again
By and | December 27, 2013

More than 10,000 striking garment factory workers again streamed into Phnom Penh’s Freedom Park throughout the day Thursday, joining opposition supporters on their 12th straight day of demonstrations and marches to demand that Prime Minister Hun Sen resign, and call a new election.

The workers, who have been on strike since Tuesday to demand the minimum monthly wage increase from $80 to $160, arrived in an string of noisy convoys that filled the park by lunchtime.

Thousands of the workers had turned out to the CNRP’s demonstration on Wednesday, and the party’s top leaders, including President Sam Rainsy, spent Thursday morning encouraging more to join the protest by visiting factories in Kandal, Kompong Speu and Kompong Chhnang provinces.

The morning consisted of the strikers dancing to music and giving brief speeches to air their grievances against Mr. Hun Sen’s government and call for the minimum wage to be raised to $160 immediately.

The government says it will increase the garment workers’ minimum wage to $160 by 2018.

At about 3:20 p.m., the striking workers, led by Mr. Rainsy and his deputy, Kem Sokha, marched down Street 51, before turning toward Phsar O’Russei and touring Jawaharlal Nehru and Kampuchea Krom Boulevards on their way back to Freedom Park.

Back at the demonstration, Mr. Rainsy told the strikers that they held the upper hand over factory owners in Cambodia, who he said have nowhere else to produce garments should they not accept a minimum wage of $160.

“Now in China, they have [a] problem with people demanding more salaries, and the Chinese had doubled their salaries just a few months ago,” Mr. Rainsy said.

“They need the Cambodian work force, and so that is why our demand is high. Do not believe that they will shut the factories, because they are making a large profit,” he said.

“When workers do not work, they [factory owners] lose so much of this money,” he added. “If they do not want to lose the money, they should give us the $160.”

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The year is 1945 and Cambodian men are packed into traditional longboats, ready to race each other in an event that “has been going on for more than 1,000 years” at the annual Water Festival in Phnom Penh.

CNRP Vice President Kem Sokha said during a radio interview this week that he will meet with senior officials in the U.S. Department of Defense during his 20-day visit to the U.S., seeking their support for an eventual CNRP-led government.

The National Election Committee on Friday said that political parties would be banned from setting up permanent campaign bases in the city during next month’s council elections.

Sao Sothy’s home is small and the furniture is sparse. There are no tables or chairs. In one room, there is a small bed, but her family of four sleeps on mats in the living room. Hanging on the otherwise bare walls is Ms. Sothy’s teacher’s certificate.

The Council of Ministers on Friday passed three long-awaited laws on the reform of the judiciary and will send them to the National Assembly early next week.

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