Cambodia: Leading brands suggest labour reforms to the govt. after meeting on labour rights issues

Image via World Bank Photo Collection on Flickr, licensed under (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Representatives of leading apparel & footwear brands, led by the American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA) and the Fair Labor Association (FLA), meet with the govt. to express concerns about labour and worker rights in Cambodia. They meet with senior Cambodian government officials to discuss the current state of worker rights, and opportunities for enhanced collaboration in upholding worker rights throughout the Cambodian garment, footwear, and travel goods sector. FLA and AAFA have sent follow-up letters to the govt. to suggest specific labour reforms.

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30 January 2019

Cambodia: Better Factories Cambodia indicates improving conditions in Cambodian garment factories; violations continue to exist

Author: Fashionating World

"A Wake up Call for the Cambodian Textile Industry", 29 January 2019

... Better Factories Cambodia (BFC) indicates improving conditions in the country’s garment factories, human rights violations demand new mechanisms for accountability and transparency in these companies.

… It’s crucial that the government, garment industry corporations and international allies support the Cambodian people in pushing for transparency, accountability and better conditions…

The BFC report found improved compliance for international laws around overtime wages, discriminations against employees, child labor, routine evacuation drills, and reprisals for union membership.

However, across the nearly 500 factories surveyed, still 234 violations were registered between November 2017 and May 2018… The survey also found only 11 violations of international child labor laws among 600,000 workers, far fewer than the 74 violations found in 2014.

... the World Bank suggests that demand for Cambodia’s exported textiles is increasing at a rate of 16.1 per cent per year,… Growth is partly due to the European Union’s decision to give Cambodia tariff-free access to their markets under the “Everything but Arms” (EBA) program…

Despite rights violations in the garment industry and the country as a whole, Nike, Adidas, H&M, Gap Inc, and other international brands continue to rely on Cambodia for the manufacture of a significant portion of their products.

H&M recently hosted a summit on fair wages in Phnom Penh and stated that wages for factory workers producing their clothing were 24 per cent higher than the minimum wage, for a total of $210.80 per month. However, Clean Clothes Campaign, …, highlighted H&M’s failure to follow through on its promise to provide minimum wages to its 850,000 garment workers…

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16 January 2019

Cambodia: Ministry of Labour issue a letter requiring officials to strictly follow the Trade Union Law to facilitate union registration

Author: Kunthear Mom, Khmer Times

"Labour officials must follow procedures", 16 January 2019

Labour Minister Ith Samheng ... ordered ministry officials to strictly follow provisions in the Trade Union Law, especially those related to protecting unions, but union leaders have reacted with scepticism.

In a letter ... issued by the ministry yesterday, Mr Samheng outlined procedures on registering unions and instructed officials charged with dealing with labour disputes and inspections, ..., to strictly follow the provisions.

“In order to ensure and improve the freedom of vocational organisations in Cambodia, I am requesting all officials in labour departments to follow the Trade Union Law, especially the implementation of procedures to protect union officials and union leaders,” he said.

Mr Samheng said that officials should not require union leaders to provide information on family members or other personal details, including showing their National Social Security Fund card, when they apply to register a union but should give them a grace period of 45 days to do so.

“Local union leaders also need not come to the ministry to register their unions but can do so through the federation of unions or confederation of unions,” he said.

Pav Sina, Collective Union of Movement of Workers president, ... said that he had just received a copy of Mr Samheng’s instructions and it really shocked him.

“I am really surprised because the letter is dated December 14 and the Labour Ministry just released it this morning,” he said. “It seems as if the ministry did not intend to publish it.”...

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10 January 2019

Cambodia: A union leader files an appeal complaint against his conviction of his role in violent protests of workers in 2014

Author: Long Kimmarita, The Phnom Penh Post

"Union chief Rong Chhun lodges complaint to court", 10 January 2019

Cambodian Confederation of Unions president Rong Chhun … filed a complaint to the Appeal Court against the suspended jail term handed down by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court for his alleged role in 2014 Veng Sreng Boulevard protests that turned violent.

…, six union leaders were given two and a half year suspended sentences for “intentional acts of violence with aggravating circumstances”, and ordered to pay five million riel (around $1,250) each in compensation to two plaintiffs.

Pav Sina of the Collective Union of Movement of Workers, Yang Sophorn, of the Cambodian Alliance of Trade Unions, Ath Thorn, of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Union, Mom Nhim, of the National Independent Federation Textile Union of Cambodia, and Chea Mony, the former president of the Free Trade Union, were also convicted.

Sina, Sophorn and Thorn have already filed appeals and are awaiting a court date.

Chhun told … that he was innocent and was not even on Veng Sreng Boulevard when the protests occurred…

He said the January 2014 protests sought an increase in the minimum wage for garment workers to $160 per month and that he and the workers were victims, not criminals.

“I filed a complaint to the Appeal Court because I cannot accept the Phnom Penh Municipal Court’s decision. The decision was unfair for me and five other union leaders."…

Neither Phnom Penh Municipal Court spokesperson Ly Sophana nor Appeal Court spokesman Touch Tharith could be reached for comment ...

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31 December 2018

Cambodia: Convicted union leaders call for independent investigation into 2014 garment workers crackdown

Author: Hul Reaksmey, VOA

"Four Convicted Union Leaders Call for New Independent Investigation Into Deadly 2014 Crackdown", 28 December 2018

Four Cambodian union leaders who were convicted over their alleged involvement in organizing garment worker strikes that led to the deaths of at least five people in early 2014 have called for an independent inquiry into the use of force against protesters...

Yang Sophoan, president of the Cambodian Alliance of Trade Unions, said she had “requested to have a clear and impartial investigation comprising all relevant parties.”

Garment workers conducted a large-scale strike in late 2013 and early 2014 in industrial areas of Phnom Penh that led to a deadly showdown with military police and paratroopers...

...Gen. Khieu Sopheak, spokesman for the Ministry of Interior, told VOA that only the courts could order new investigation...

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29 December 2018

Cambodia: 95 international and local NGOs express serious concerns over the conviction of six union leaders in a joint statement despite PM's intervention

Author: Meta Kong, The Phnom Penh Post

"Ninety-five NGOs condemn convictions of union leaders", 25 December 2018

Ninety-five NGOs have issued a joint statement condemning the convictions of six union leaders for their roles in a minimum wage protest at Veng Sreng Boulevard in Phnom Penh....

…, Ath Thorn, Chea Mony, Mam Nhim, Pav Sina, Rong Chhun and Yang Sophorn were each handed two-and-a-half year suspended prison sentences by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court and ordered to pay compensation of 35 million riel ($8,750) to two victims, Chea Sophany and Tim Vuthy…

The NGOs’ statement criticised the court for not providing sufficient credible evidence.

“At trial, prosecutors failed to produce any evidence to establish that the six had committed the crimes they were charged with, nor were any witnesses produced to prove the accused had acted violently during the protests."

“Importantly, no evidence was submitted to prove that the six union leaders had instigated any of the acts with which they were charged. Further, none of the actual perpetrators of violence or damage were named or charged,” the statement read."…

Pav Sina, the president of the Collective Union of Movement of Workers, said he had already filed a complaint to the Appeal Court ...

The president of the Cambodia Alliance of Trade Union Yang Sophorn said she had also filed an appeal … and welcomed the NGOs’ statement…

Ministry of Justice spokesman Chin Malin considered the statement an example of freedom of expression.

“It’s their right to issue [the statement] but dropping the charges is the court’s decision and the decision has already been made,” he said.

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13 December 2018

Cambodia: PM believes that three union leaders of the six leaders recently convicted are innocent and offers witnesses to prove their innocence

Author: Koemsoeun Soth, The Phnom Penh Post

"PM: Three protest union leaders ‘innocent’", 13 December 2018

Prime Minister Hun Sen said … that he believes three of the six union leaders convicted for their role in violent street demonstrations were innocent.

Seemingly contradicting the judgement handed down by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court ...

He said the people involved with “attempting to topple the government” in violent demonstrations at Veng Sreng Street in Phnom Penh must be punished, but that he believed three of the six convicted union leaders were not involved in the demonstrations.

Hun Sen named the three as the presidents of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union, Ath Thorn; the Collective Union of Movement of Workers, Pav Sina; and the former president of the Free Trade Union, Chea Mony…

…, Phnom Penh Municipal Court handed six union leaders – Ath Thorn, Chea Mony, Yang Sophorn, Pav Sina, Rong Chhun and Mam Nhim – two and a half year prison sentences each, along with a 35 million riel ($8,700) compensation …

But … the prime minister said there was sufficient evidence proving the innocence of three of the six convicted union leaders…

He cited the chairman of the Cambodia Human Rights Committee Keo Remy and journalist Soy Sopheap as key witnesses who are able to exonerate Chea Mony, Pav Sina and Ath Thorn.

“Keo Remy can be a witness for Chea Mony, because at the time I received a report that forces would intervene [in the Veng Sreng protests], I called Keo Remy to tell him to instruct Chea Mony not to get involved…

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12 December 2018

Cambodia: Phnom Penh Municipal Court sentences six union leaders to between eight months and four and a half years despite PM's intervention

Author: Chanthol Prak, Reuters

"Cambodia union leaders convicted over protests, jail terms suspended", 11 December 2018

A Cambodian court found six union leaders guilty … of instigating violent protests against the government in 2013 and 2014, but suspended their jail terms…

During one protest in 2014, military police fired on stone-throwing textile workers who were also demanding higher wages. A human rights group said at least four people were killed and more than 20 wounded.

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court … found six union leaders guilty of initiating intentional violence and causing damage in the 2013-2014 protests. They were given suspended jail terms of between eight months and four and a half years.

“All of these jail terms are suspended,” Judge Im Vannak told the court, without elaborating. He ordered the union leaders, who did not appear in court, to pay a total of $8,692 in compensation to people injured in the 2014 clash.

Hun Sen told his ministers … to ease pressure on labor leaders, after threats by the European Union to remove the Southeast Asian country’s duty-free trading access.

Representatives from apparel and footwear companies, including Adidas, Nike and Puma, had urged the government to drop what are seen as politically motivated criminal charges against trade unionists.

The labor leaders said … they would appeal their convictions, which effectively bans them from leading a union.

“We can’t accept this criminal conviction record. The situation is now more tense than before,” said Ath Thon, the president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union, who was among those found guilty.

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9 December 2018

Cambodia: Phnom Penh Municipal Court hears the trials of six union leaders after PM's call to expedite the judicial procedures

Author: Rathavong Ven, Khmer Times

"Court opens trial of unionists", 7 December 2018

Phnom Penh Municipal Court opened the trials of six union leaders concerning their roles in the violent protests following the 2013 election and will announce its verdict on December 11.  None of the accused was present.

The six union leaders are: Chea Mony, former president of the Free Trade Union of Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia; Ath Thorn, president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union; Yang Sophorn, president of the Cambodian Alliance of Trade Unions; Pav Sina, president of the Collective Union of Movement of Workers; former unionist Rong Chhun; and Mom Nhim, president of the National Independent Federation Textile Unions of Cambodia.

They are charged with intent to commit violence, intent to cause damage, threats to cause damage and obstructing traffic during the massive protests in late December 2013/early 2014 by garment workers demanding a higher minimum wage...

The lawyers representing Mr Thorn, Ms Sophorn, Mr Chhun and Mr Sina said that there is no evidence of their clients’ involvement in such actions, and asked that the charges be dropped.

The Garment Manufacturers Association wrote to the court ... withdrawing its complaint against the unionists.

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3 December 2018

Cambodia: Court sets a trial date for union leaders charged following deadly protests in early 2014 after Prime Minister’s intervention

Author: Chheng Niem, The Phnom Penh Post

"Lethal protest union leaders’ trial date set", 3 December 2018

Phnom Penh Municipal Court has set this Friday as the start of the trial of six union leaders who were charged following protests after the 2013 national elections where demands to raise the minimum wage for garment factory workers turned violent.

A letter from prosecutor Ly Sophana to lawyer Choung Choungy,…, said the municipal court will begin hearing the cases on Friday…

Six presidents including those of the Free Trade Union (FTU) Chea Mony; Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Union (C.CAWDU) Ath Thorn; Cambodian Alliance of Trade Unions (CATU) Yang Sophorn; Collective Union of Movement of Workers (CUMW) Pav Sina; and Cambodian Confederation of Unions (CCU) Rong Chhun face four charges.

They are: “Intentional acts of violence with aggravating circumstances”; “intentionally causing damage with aggravating circumstances”; “threats to destroy followed by an order”; and “blocking public traffic”…

In late 2013, the workers protested along Phnom Penh’s Veng Sreng Boulevard to demand an increase in the wage to $160 after the government raised it to $95 from $80…

Prime Minister Hun Sen … called for the courts to speed up the trials involving the union leaders…

The Ministry of Labour on … told the union leaders to report their cases to the ministry...

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29 November 2018

Cambodia: Ministry of Interior lifts an advance notification requirement for civil society before organising its events

Author: Dara Voun, The Phonh Penh Post

"NGOs may operate without restriction", 28 November 2018

Minister of Interior Sar Kheng … instructed municipal and provincial authorities to facilitate the activities of civil society organisations and local communities without restriction and prior notice as previously required.

“NGOs and associations, including local communities that have already registered with the ministry, have complete freedom to legally carry out activities without having to inform local authorities three days beforehand as they did before,” Sar Kheng said in a directive...

Soeung Sen Karuna, the senior investigating officer for rights group Adhoc, welcomed the directive.

“There have been [negative] reactions from NGOs in various fields including human rights, advocacy and election observation to authorities’ restriction on their activities."…

“Over the past years, any action against civil society organisations had been broadcast by pro-government media, so we want them to also publicise the directive to help relevant authorities understand [our rights],” he said.

Theng Savoeun, the director of the NGO Coalition of Cambodian Farmer Community (CCFC), echoed Karuna’s concerns.

“We hope local authorities will follow the directive when dealing with civil society organisations and when the NGOs carry out their activities,” he said…

San Chey, the executive director of the Affiliated Network for Social Accountability, said the directive is apparently aimed at revising the existing law to provide more space for NGOs…

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