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17 Mar 2023

Radio Free Asia Khmer

Cambodia: Over 50,000 garment workers as factories reduce workforce or shut down operations

"More than 50,000 Cambodian workers laid off amid downturn in garment sector", 17 March 2023

More than 50,000 Cambodian garment workers have lost their jobs as struggling companies have made cutbacks to try to stay afloat while others have closed, Radio Free Asia has learned.

To date, 10 Cambodian factories have completely shut down and 500 others have suspended production since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in Dec. 2019.

The government has cited the war between Russia and Ukraine as the main reason for the industry’s inability to recover from downturns it experienced during the pandemic and other woes. But experts say a better explanation is because Cambodia has lost some of its preferential trade advantages with the European Union due to human rights concerns – which means higher tariffs on exports – and that the country risks losing more...

Kem Sopeng, a garment union representative who has been fired from his job for the past three months told RFA’s Khmer Service that he will not apply for those jobs because he thinks the new factories are not stable and they likely won’t respect workers’ rights.

“The working conditions in garment factories have not improved over the past 10 years,” he said, adding that he has been working in the sector for the past seven years, and has been abused and exploited.

“I just made enough to get by. If I couldn’t work, I would starve,” he said. “The work is just enough to live another day.”...

Ath Thun of the Cambodian Labour Confederation said he welcomed the government’s efforts to get the laid off workers back into factories, but he urged the ministry of expenditures to provide more employment opportunities to agricultural workers too...