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19 May 2021

Thomson Reuters Foundation

Cambodia: Garment workers struggle to pay debts in lockdown

"Cambodia's garment workers struggle to pay debts as lockdown bites", 19 May 2021

After weeks without pay, it was debt that drove Cambodian garment worker Eang Malea back to her factory when it reopened this month, eclipsing her heightened fear of falling ill amid a surge of COVID-19 cases on factory floors.

The 850,000 people who work in Cambodia’s $7 billion garment industry have been prioritised for COVID-19 vaccines, but Malea has not yet secured hers and promises of debt relief amid strict lockdowns have not materialised, she said.

...Cambodia shut clothing factories and put some worker communities under strict lockdowns in mid-April as hundreds of new coronavirus cases were detected each day, with infections at more than 100 factories.

...[T]he Cambodian Microfinance Association on April 7 told its members to assist struggling clients, following months of campaigning by advocacy groups.

But several borrowers told the Thomson Reuters Foundation they had not been offered the moratorium, and expressed fear of losing land held as collateral.

...The Cambodian Microfinance Association did not respond to requests for comment. It has previously rejected claims of predatory lending

...A 2020 survey by trade unions and rights groups found almost a third of workers had taken new loans to pay off existing debt