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CNRP backing wage demand

The opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party has firmly backed a union-led push for a $177 minimum wage in the Kingdom’s garment sector.

However, party leaders have suggested that they will not encourage mass strikes and protests this time around, in contrast to December, when workers demonstrating for a doubling of their minimum wage coalesced with an opposition-led campaign to unseat Prime Minister Hun Sen.

During that politically tense period, the party urged workers to continue striking until their demands were met.

“Out [of] or in parliament the CNRP continues to fully support the workers’ demand for a decent minimum wage,” party leader Sam Rainsy told the Post yesterday, adding that if firms stopped paying bribes to government officials, they could afford $177 “without jeopardising their competitiveness”.

“There will be [a] mass strike only at the last resort. We will do our best to prevent violence,” Rainsy went on to say.

The government blamed the opposition for having “incited” violent protests in January that saw at least five workers shot dead by authorities and millions in factory losses.

CNRP public affairs head Mu Sochua said the party was looking for a “win-win situation” for all stakeholders this time, and would push for a free and peaceful “climate of dialogue”.

“We have to learn from the past experience where lives of workers were lost, military police forces [were] used, and no independent investigation conducted,” she said.

But some unionists yesterday remained wary of overt CNRP involvement in their campaign.

“He is a lawmaker, so he has the right to join or walk out with the unions and workers to demand the minimum wage,” Collective Union of Movement of Workers president Pav Sina said of Rainsy. “But for me I think he should stay at the National Assembly to demand the wage for the workers in order to avoid [allowing] the other party to accuse us of being involved with the opposition party.”

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