Cambodia: Apparel brands stand up for human rights defenders, civic freedoms & urge garment industry reform

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Article
23 March 2018

Cambodia: Apparel groups warn restrictions on freedom of association will make Cambodia unattractive & expensive place to do business

Author: Daphne Chen, The Phnom Penh Post (Cambodia)

"Apparel groups including H&M and Gap urge Cambodia garment industry reform, seek meeting with Hun Sen",  21 Mar 2018

A group representing some of the largest apparel brands in the US and Europe – including Gap, H&M and ASOS – expressed “growing concern”...over several controversial labour laws and ongoing court cases against unionists described as restrictive and unjust. In an open letter to Prime Minister Hun Sen, the apparel groups also call for amendments to the contentious 2016 Trade Union Law and ask the government to strengthen the Arbitration Council...In the letter, the group, which includes... American Apparel & Footwear Association and... Ethical Trading Initiative, warns that restrictions on freedom of association “will make Cambodia an unattractive and expensive place to do business”. The groups also call for an end to the harassment of labour activists like Central Director Moeun Tola and Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union President Ath Thorn, both of whom are facing criminal charges. In addition, the organizations also ask the government to drop a proposed ban on independent research during the minimum wage negotiation process, as well as a controversial draft law on labour disputes... [and ask] for a meeting with the premier to discuss its concerns.

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Article
23 March 2018

Cambodia: Letter of concern by brands to Prime Minister regarding freedom of association & human rights defenders

Author: Rick Helfenbein - President and CEO, American Apparel & Footwear Association, Christian Ewert - Director General, amfori – Trade with Purpose, Peter McAllister - Executive Director, Ethical Trading Initiative, Sharon Waxman - President and CEO, Fair Labor Association, Alexander Kohnstamm - Director, Fair Wear Foundation & Jane Hwang - President and CEO, Social Accountability International

On behalf of international garment, footwear, and travel goods brands and retailers, we write to urge your government to immediately implement its October 16, 2017 commitments... Further, we write to express our growing concern over recent developments that not only seem to undermine progress towards improving worker rights, but also appear to have created an environment that has weakened protection of human rights. As such, we also urge your government to guarantee respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms and to provide full protection of all human rights defenders in your country. Political freedoms, rule of law, and enforcement of international civil and labor rights are essential for international trade and responsible business. Our organizations – American Apparel and Footwear Association (AAFA), amfori – Trade with Purpose, Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI), Fair Labor Association (FLA), Fair Wear Foundation (FWF) and Social Accountability International (SAI) - represent U.S., European, and other major international brands and retailers, including more than 200 buyers... We applaud the 16 October 2017 announcement...that your government would address many of the concerns raised by our organizations... However, five months have passed with little progress... [S]ince that announcement, we have watched with increasing concern actions that appear to undermine human rights and freedom of association. Those actions include...[t]he criminal charges against Tola Moeun, But Buntenh, and Pa Nguon Teang;...criminal charges against 12 independent union leaders in the February 2016,  most prominently Ath Thorn,... [W]e urge the government to [g]uarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of arrested...defenders...

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