Stop the Brutal Suppression of Workers and Trade Unions in Cambodi

Labour Action China and a group of Hong Kong-based labour rights organizations and trade unions staged a protest at the Royal Consulate-General of Cambodia today against the Cambodian government for its violent suppression of the recent lawful strike of garment, textile and footwear workers demanding for an increase of minimum wage. The representative from the Cambodian Consulate received the petition letter, but there has been no response on its violent suppression on the trade unions and workers in Cambodia.

Numerous media reports have confirmed that at least four workers were brutally killed and 23 others severely injured as a result of the excessive force used by the police and armed forces with live ammunition between 2 and 3 January 2014. Mr Vorn Pao, President of Independent Democracy of Informal Economy Association (IDEA) and Mr Theng Savoeun, Coordinator of Coalition of Cambodian Farmer Communities (CCFC) were among the arrested and 10 workers are remain in custody.

We wonder why the Hun Sen administration perpetrated such degree of violence to silent a legitimate demand for a minimum wage increased. The current minimum wages were US$75 and $80 per month for probationary and non-probationary workers in the garment industry respectively. The Labor Advisory Committee recommended an increase to US$157-$177. Garment workers have been the backbone of the fast economic growth for the last decade. Roughly 80% of export from Cambodia relies upon 700,000 garment workers. Their wages are lagging far behind inflation and their increased productivity. In December 2013, the government announced its plan to increase minimum wage to US$95 (later increased to US$100), which utterly ignored the recommendation of the Labor Advisory Committee, as well as unions’ demand for an increase to US$160 as the minimum wage.

We are deeply concerned about the working conditions of Cambodian workers. Hong Kong is Cambodia’s 6th largest trading partner and the 5th largest source of imports. Currently, some 56 Hong Kong-owned garment and footwear factories are operating in Cambodia, employing more than 35,000 workers. These companies act in complicity with transnational companies, such as H&M, Gap, Levi’s, for a low wage.

It is outrageous that the Cambodian government has shown little interest to enhance the welfare of its citizens. Cambodian workers have their constitutional right to strike and freedom of association. As a signatory to the ILO’s Convention No 87 on Freedom of Association, the Cambodian government also has obligation to uphold the principle of minimum interference in a peaceful strike. Meanwhile, it is a fundamental human right to enjoy a decent living. Article 104 of the Cambodian Labor Law clearly states that “wage must be at least equal to the guaranteed minimum wage; that is, it must ensure every worker of a decent standard of living compatible with human dignity”. Obviously, the government’s proposal of US$100 per month is in no ways enough to guarantee the legally required standard of living.


We urge:

1.     the Government of Cambodia to immediately stop brutally suppressing workers and union leaders and refrain from deploying violent measures against its own citizens;

2.     the employers must find ways of doing business without squeezing workers to death; and

3.     the authorities must begin with immediate release of the arrested workers and union leaders as well as a thorough independent investigation of the violence that killed workers who had just wanted a better life and have courage to protest injustice.


Participants: Asian Monitor Resource Centre (AMRC), Asian Transnational Corporations Monitoring Network (ATNC), Globalization Monitor (GM), Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU), Hong Kong Women Workers’ Association (HKWWA), Interfaith Cooperation Forum (IFC), Labour Action China (LAC), Labour Education and Service Network (LESN), Labour Party, Left 21, Retail, Commerce and Clothing Industries General Union (RCCIGU), Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour (SACOM), Worker Empowerment (WE), War On Want