The Cambodian League for the Promotion and
Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO) and the Community Legal Education Centre
(CLEC) are outraged by today's violent crackdown on striking workers by a
military special command unit and the consequent violent arrest of union
leaders, garment workers and monks.
The use of Special Command Unit 911 to suppress
demonstrations near Yak Jin factory in Phnom Penh’s Pursenchey district is
unprecedented and signals a disturbing new tactic by authorities to quash what
have been largely peaceful protests.
Tension escalated this morning as striking garment workers
from factories close to Yak Jin industrial unit gathered to urge other workers
to join the general strike for a livable minimum wage. Soldiers from the
neighboring 911 military base were quickly mobilized to quash the protest,
leading to two violent clashes. The soldiers were seen brandishing metal pipes,
knives, AK47 rifles, slingshots and batons.
In total ten people are believed to have been arrested
including at least four monks, Vorn Pao, President of IDEA (Independent
Democracy of Informal Economy Association) and Theng Savoeun, Coordinator of
CCFC (Coalition of Cambodian Farmer Community). They were initially held at the
911 military base.
Yak Jin factory is believed to produce clothing for
international brands including GAP, Walmart, Pink and Old Navy.
"We are gravely concerned for the safety of those still
held, especially in light of recent threats to leaders of unions and informal
associations." said Naly Pilorge, LICADHO Director. Some of those held are
believed to have been severely beaten as they were arrested. Monks and workers
from nearby factories were also beaten by military police during the earlier
We call on authorities to ensure the safety of those held
and allow them immediate access to medical services if required. Anyone who has
been arrested solely for organizing or participating in peaceful demonstrations
should be released immediately and unconditionally. Anyone suspected of a
criminal offence must be charged without delay on the basis of concrete
evidence and given access to a lawyer.
"We urge all those currently involved in protests and labor
disputes and the authorities to abide by the law, exercise restraint and remain
peaceful. There must be an end to violence, arrest and discrimination of those
seeking to exercise their rights to freedom of association and collective
bargaining,"said Moeun Tola, Head of CLEC's labor program.
The conduct of the authorities is a flagrant attack on the
freedom of association of Cambodian workers and a blatant and illegal attempt
to break a legal strike. As a signatory to the ILO's Convention on Freedom of
Association, authorities are bound by ILO's interpretation of the principles
within which state "authorities should not have recourse to measures of
imprisonment for the mere fact of organizing or participating in a peaceful
strike." Physical violence, arrest or imprisonment of union activists
associated with a lawful strike clearly breaches those requirements and is a
grave violation of Cambodian and International law.
We remind the authorities of the legally entrenched right to
strike under the Constitution and Cambodian Labor Law and the requirement 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" as per Article 104 of the Labor Law. According to international judges
during the People’s Tribunal on Living Wage conducted in February 2012, workers
who are paid wages which do not cover their basic needs cannot live with human
dignity. Countless research conducted since confirms that the current offer of
$100 per month is truly insufficient to satisfy basic needs of garment workers
and all workers. Hence, the authorities have failed in their legal
responsibility to ensure the basic needs of its working citizens who are so
entitled to collectively bargain to better their wages.
For more information, please contact:
- Mr. Am Sam Ath, Technical Supervisor of LICADHO
- Mr. Moeun Tola, Head of CLEC Labour Program, 066 777 056