News / Asia

New Report Criticizes Cambodian Worker Protest Crackdown

Protesters gather in front of the Appeals Court during a protest near the Royal Palace in central Phnom Penh, Feb. 10, 2014.
Protesters gather in front of the Appeals Court during a protest near the Royal Palace in central Phnom Penh, Feb. 10, 2014.
International labor rights groups have issued a report about the Cambodian workers' movement, that staged massive protests after the government failed to meet popular demands for a minimum wage increase in December. The report, released Thursday, found the workers' participation in the strikes was unprecedented, as was the government's repression.

In Cambodia, the garment industry accounts for both opportunity in the form of massive exports and tensions in the form of low-wages for a large segment of the country's poor.

The contradiction came to a head in January, when armed forces violently cracked down on a series of strikes organized by workers demanding better pay. The demonstrations resulted in at least four deaths and dozens of injuries. A 16- year-old worker is still missing.

An international fact-finding team visited Cambodia just weeks after the violent protests. It reported its findings at the Foreign Correspondent Club in Hong Kong on Thursday.

They concluded that the government's denial of the worker's demands and its response to the strikes with violence indicate it is more concerned with protecting the interests of the garment industry than those of the workers.

“They don't want the democratic discussion in the tripartite committee. They always restrict the voice of the democratic unions inside the discussion,” said Kong Athit, General Secretary of the Cambodian Labor Confederation.

Adjustment of minimum wages, which have remained stagnant despite high inflation, is to be reviewed by the Labor Advisory Committee. The organ consists of representatives from the government, employers and workers. But labor rights groups question the independence of some of the trade union members with seats in the committee.

On December 24, the committee announced a raise in the national minimum wage, from $80 to $95 monthly, far below the workers' demand of $160.

The news triggered strikes, with thousands of workers taking to the streets in and around Phnom Penh.

The labor report says some employers tried to keep workers from joining the protests by offering them economic incentives to stay at their factories. Others, it adds, simply locked the gates to prevent people from getting out.

In early January, the situation escalated and armed forces opened fire against the protestors.

“The violent repression of workers' protest causing death was unprecedented, excessive and unnecessary causing a human rights emergency,” noted team coordinator Fahmi Panimbang.

Since the crackdown, international brands who outsource in the country have condemned the violence, but also expressed concern about the safety of their investment.

Labor confederation leader Kong Athit says it is unclear whether they are willing to shoulder the costs of higher wages. “The problem between the brand and the supplier is still there. The barrier of 'who is paying and who is only saying?' This is the real problem now in the global textile chain,” Kong Athit said.

Despite a government ban against demonstrations, strikes are continuing.  

Kong Athit says workers in 200 factories are boycotting overtime work, another issue of contention for workers who say they are exploited to the point of exhaustion.   

Twenty-one people are still under arrest following the strike.

The report called on the government to release the prisoners, which include trade union representatives and workers, and go back to the negotiation table.

You May Like

US Investors Eye IPO for China's Alibaba

E-commerce giant handled 80 percent of China's online business last year, logging more Internet transactions than US-based Amazon.com and eBay combined More

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

As cease-fire begins, Palestinians celebrate in streets; Israelis remain wary More

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

In treatment of a 12-year-old boy Chinese doctors used a 3-D printer and special software to create an exact replica of vertebra More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implanti
X
August 27, 2014 4:53 PM
A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

Israel and the Gaza Strip have been calm since a cease-fire set in Tuesday evening, ending seven weeks of hostilities. Hamas, which controls Gaza, declared victory. Israelis were more wart. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. VOA News reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Northern California Quake: No Way to Know When Next One Will Hit

A magnitude 6.0 earthquake rocked northern California’s Napa Valley on Sunday. Roads twisted and water mains burst. It was the wine country’s most severe quake in 15 years, and while hospitals treated many people, no one was killed. Arash Arabasadi has more from Washington on what the future may hold for those residents living on a fault line.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Ukrainian officials say they have captured Russian soldiers on Ukrainian territory -- the latest accusation of Moscow's involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the Ukrainian side of the battle, where soldiers are convinced of Russia's role.
Video

Video Rubber May Soon Come From Dandelions

Synthetic rubber has been around for more than a century, but quality tires for cars, trucks and aircraft still need up to 40 percent or more natural rubber content. As the source of natural rubber, the rubber tree, is prone to disease and can be affected by bad weather. So scientists are looking for replacements. And as VOA’s George Putic reports, they may have found one in a ubiquitous weed.
Video

Video Jewish Life in Argentina Reflected in Yiddish Tango

Jewish people from across Europe and Russia have been immigrating to Argentina for hundreds of years. They brought with them dance music that were eventually mixed with Argentine tango. The result is Yiddish tango -- a fusion of melodies and cultural experiences that is still evolving today. Elizabeth Lee reports from the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, where one band is bringing Yiddish tango to an American audience.

AppleAndroid