An official at the Cambodian embassy in the United Kingdom reportedly told a British labour activist to “go to the moon” after he inquired about unrest in the garment industry.
The Telegraph reported that Ben Rickman, secretary at Brent Trade Union Councils, wrote an email to the embassy expressing concern about the suspensions of union representatives in connection with strikes by garment workers.
“It is none of your business!” said an email reply from the embassy's official address signed "Webmaster".
“Please report to your clown boss to stop this childish game and stop this circus at once? Thank you.”
Rickman replied, demanding a “sensible answer”, only to be rebuffed in similar fashion.
“Please go to the moon and stay there until you get an answer. Cambodia is not part of the British Empire.”
The Cambodian ambassador to the UK, Hor Nambora, has courted controversy in the past with his fiery media statements, taking aim at watchdog group Global Witness as well as media outlets including the BBC and The Economist.
Strike cases ongoing
The Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Union, a local labour group, said last week that 131 union representatives remained suspended pending court decisions on the legality of last month’s strikes.
601 workers who protested these suspensions, CCAWDU said, have been dismissed from their jobs because they ignored court orders requiring them to return to work within 48 hours.
Ken Loo, secretary general of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia, disputed the figure, saying that just 358 workers had been fired.
Um Visal, a labour dispute resolution officer at CCAWDU, said that he planned to write a letter to the ministries of labour and social affairs asking them to intervene to allow the workers to return to their jobs.
In a speech last month, Prime Minister Hun Sen called for factories to withdraw lawsuits related to the strikes.