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Let unions register: HRW

The government must stop stalling the registration of labour unions, says a letter from a major rights group sent to Labour Minister Ith Sam Heng and made public yesterday.

Phil Robertson, Asia deputy director at Human Rights Watch (HRW), raises concerns in the letter over “what appears to be a dramatic decline in the registration of unions” and urges Sam Heng to “immediately intervene and ensure that the responsible officials resume licensing unions”.

“Independent union federations in Cambodia have raised concerns that the Labor Ministry has put in place a de facto suspension of union registration even though there is no official written order suspending such registrations,” it reads.

According to HRW, officials could provide no information on new registrations in 2014, saying only that between 50 and 60 applications were pending.

Speaking to the Post yesterday, Robertson said “it is the basic right of workers to collectively bargain, [as] without that they are vulnerable”.

Joel Preston, a consultant for the Community Legal Education Center, agreed. “Freedom of association is a fundamental right. I don’t know what the government can do to further limit . . . trade unions. It’s ludicrous,” he said.

“The percentage of unions aligned with the government and factory owners greatly outweigh the independent ones.”

Robertson called on the government to take action on the issue by Labour Day on Thursday.

“[It should] make May Day meaningful to workers by resuming union registration and ending unnecessary interference in union activities,” he said.

Labour officials could not be reached.

What we think is important is to note that Cambodia is well aware of its international commitments to human rights

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