Amid workers walking off the job in protest over the minimum garment wage, opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party leaders Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha last night threw their support behind widespread strikes.
On the 10th day of opposition demonstrations in the capital calling for Prime Minister Hun Sen to either resign or call a snap election, Rainsy and Sokha said that if garment workers strike en masse throughout the country today – as some unions have already begun to do – the climate will benefit the CNRP.
“From tomorrow,” Rainsy said at Freedom Park last night, “the situation for garment workers is going to change – and so is the political situation.
“If civil servants and teachers follow, the [political situation] is going to change even more.”
Sokha said he heard that the government’s decision yesterday to increase the minimum wage by only $15 per month meant workers will strike “throughout the country”.
Rainsy added that the CNRP fully supported workers in their bid to be paid $160 per month.
The opposition leaders spoke after another motorcade through the streets of Phnom Penh yesterday afternoon.
With thousands of supporters, many of them youths, trailing on motorbikes, Rainsy and Sokha travelled in the back of a pick-up truck from near their party office in Tuol Kork, through Sen Sok district towards Veng Sreng road in Dangkor district, an area known for garment factories.
The CNRP parade travelled uninterrupted – save for when the cavalcade was forced to make an unusual stop to allow a cargo train to cross its path in Sen Sok.
Garment workers and street vendors were among those who lined the roadsides to welcome Rainsy and Sokha, who did not speak at length along the way.
Also speaking at Freedom Park, CCU president Rong Chhun warned of “strikes exploding”.
“Please workers, strike throughout the country,” he said. “I also call for civil servants and teachers to strike together.”
Mam Rithy, president of the Cambodian Tourism and Service Workers Federation (CTSWF), made similar calls.
“[Our members] will join if the government cannot resolve the salary issue.”
Long Samnang, a teacher speaking on stage, appealed to all teachers across the country to join the strike.
“We may have taught for more than 10 years and still not have the money to build a house,” he said.