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Cambodian Garment Workers Vow to Continue Strike

A garment worker cries as factory guards are seen in the background after clashes broke out during a protest in Phnom Penh, Jan. 3, 2014.
Union leaders in Cambodia say garment workers will continue to strike over low wages, despite a violent crackdown by authorities last week and new threats from factories that say they will be forced to move to other countries if strikes continue.

Five different unions say their workers will keep up the 15-day strike, demanding an eventual salary of $160 per month, although many workers will stay home rather than demonstrate in the streets.

Chey Mony, president of the Free Trade Union, tells VOA's Khmer service the workers will not give in.

“We will stick to our position," Mony said. "When [workers] go home, can the factories stay open?”

But factory owners, who say the work stoppage has cost factories about $200 million, say they cannot meet the workers’ salary demands.

Ken Loo, GMAC’s secretary-general, says factories will move out of the country if strikes continue.

“On the salary, there is no more negotiations," he said. "The door is now closed.”

Workers say they cannot live off the current salary, $80 per month, because of the rising cost of living in Cambodia.

Last week, the strike took a violent turn when four people were killed and 40 injured by an elite military unit that fired into a crowd outside Phnom Penh.

This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Khmer service.