A WEEK THAT SHOOK CAMBODIA
A WEEK THAT SHOOK CAMBODIA
Release of the Fact-finding Mission Report on the Violent Crackdown on Garment Workers in Cambodia (Dec 2013-Jan 2014)
The garment industry has been the chief engine of the Cambodian economy for the past two decades since its establishment in 1994. However, garment workers still account for a large part of the country's working poor. Workers are universally unhappy about the quality of life in general and the minimum wage in particular. To maintain basic livelihoods, they must work increasingly more over me, to the point of exhaustion and beyond as seen in the mass fainting at work of more than 4,000 garment workers in the past two years.
On December 24th 2013, despite the workers' demands to increase the minimum wage to US$ 160, the Royal Government of Cambodia announced its decision to increase the minimum wage from US$ 80 to only US$ 95 a month by April 2014. They also outlined a plan to increase the wages to US$ 160 by 2018. Representatives from six major labour federations and confederations rejected the decision and called for a general strike, demanding an immediate rise in the minimum wage to US$ 160, which was consistent with the Ministry of Labour's assessment of the minimum wage of US$ 157-177 a month to survive in Cambodia in 2013. The demonstrations started that same afternoon of December 24th and led to a massive protest by the majority of workers over the next few days.
The peaceful strike on December 29th was the largest protest. A major feature of this strike was that it was a 'self generated strike' by rank-and-file workers almost unanimously supporting the demand to raise the minimum wage. Employers and the government took increasingly aggressive steps to bring the strikes under control, but the strikes and mass rallies continued until December 31st. On December 31st, the Ministry of Labour announced a slightly modified proposal to increase the minimum wage to US$ 100 but protests continued; workers marched to the Council of Ministers where they were met with barbed wire roadblocks and riot police. Tensions were building between the workers and the authorities.
Between January 2nd and 3rd 2014, the
authorities violently suppressed the protests. Numerous
media reports, workers, and witnesses confirmed the
excessive use of brutal force by the police and armed forces
that killed at least four workers and severely injured
at least 38 other workers and supporters. One person remains missing and is presumed
dead. Two journalists (one Australian and one Cambodian) and several monks were also beaten during the incidents. The authorities also arrested 23 workers and to date 21 of them remain in detention. Many workers and witnesses have reported that the security forces started the violent clash with strikers.
In response to these tragic events, an international team of labour activists, academics and human rights defenders formed a fact-finding mission to document the workers' experiences and perspectives in the aftermath of the violence. To mark the launch of the fact-finding report, Asia Monitor Resource Centre (AMRC) invites you to join us at the press conference. Two trade union leaders from the Cambodian Labour Confederation (CLC) will be present to recount the brutal crackdown on the striking workers: Mr. Kong Athit, the General Secretary, Cambodian Labour Confederation (CLC) and Vice President, Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Union (C.CAWDU). Mr. Mora Sar, President, Cambodian Food and Service Workers Federation (CFSWF).
Cambodian Labour Confederation (CLC) was established in 2006. CLC is a democratic and independent confederation with 83,367 members from eight union federations and associations: Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Union(C.CAWDU), Cambodian Tourism and Service workers Federation (CTSWF), Independent Democratic of Informal Economic Association (IDEA), Cambodian Independent Civil-Servants Association (CICA), Farmers Association for Peace and Development (FAPD), Cambodian Food and Service-Workers Federation (CFSWF), Building and Wood Workers Trade Union Federation of Cambodian (BWTUC), and Coalition of Cambodian Employee Workers of Industry and Service Union (CEWISU).