Search

Search form

Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Donors called on to pressure gov’t after unionists charged

Donors called on to pressure gov’t after unionists charged

Donors called on to pressure gov’t after unionists charged

An influential rights group is urging donors to Cambodia to apply pressure on the government concerning the case of six labour union leaders accused of playing an active role in violent demonstrations earlier this year.

In an open letter posted on its website on Wednesday, Human Rights Watch (HRW) says donors should tell the government to end efforts to prosecute leaders of unions behind a nationwide garment strike over wages that lasted from late December to early January. Soldiers shot dead at least five people during a demonstration on January 3, as protesters set fires and threw Molotov cocktails at authorities.

The six union leaders face charges of intentional violence.

“Cambodian authorities are pursuing trumped-up charges against labor activists in an apparent attempt to get them to abandon demands for better pay and conditions,” HRW Asia director Brad Adams says in the statement. “This is just the latest government effort to scare activists and the political opposition into dropping plans to use protests to advance their causes.”

The statement names those to be called for questioning as union presidents Pav Sina, Ath Thorn, Chea Mony, Rong Chhun, Morn Nhim and Yang Sophorn. A Phnom Penh Municipal Court clerk on Wednesday confirmed all but Nhim.

The Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC), representing more than 170 factories in the case, filed the suit in January.

With unions, the government and GMAC going through the process of setting next year’s minimum wage, Thorn, president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union, said he thinks the summons coinciding with the wage negotiations is an intentional distraction.

“They are trying to use the court against us,” Thorn said.

GMAC secretary-general Ken Loo dismissed the notion of political motivations and said GMAC lawyers were looking into whether HRW’s call for pressuring the government amounts to obstruction.

“It’s quite stupid for HRW to be saying this,” Loo said. “They’re trying to get donors to pressure the government to drop the case – is that interfering with a case? That’s a chargeable offence.”

RECOMMENDED STORIES

  • Breaking: PM says prominent human rights NGO ‘must close’

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has instructed the Interior Ministry to investigate the Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR) and potentially close it “because they follow foreigners”, appearing to link the rights group to the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party's purported “revolution”. The CNRP - the

  • Rainsy and Sokha ‘would already be dead’: PM

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on Sunday appeared to suggest he would have assassinated opposition leaders Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha had he known they were promising to “organise a new government” in the aftermath of the disputed 2013 national elections. In a clip from his speech

  • Massive ceremony at Angkor Wat will show ‘Cambodia not in anarchy’: PM

    Government officials, thousands of monks and Prime Minister Hun Sen himself will hold a massive prayer ceremony at Angkor Wat in early December to highlight the Kingdom’s continuing “peace, independence and political stability”, a spectacle observers said was designed to disguise the deterioration of

  • PM tells workers CNRP is to blame for any sanctions

    In a speech to workers yesterday, Prime Minister Hun Sen pinned the blame for any damage inflicted on Cambodia’s garment industry by potential economic sanctions squarely on the opposition party. “You must remember clearly that if the purchase orders are reduced, it is all