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Better enforcement of union law needed: gov’t

Demonstrators hold signs opposing the trade union law at a protest outside the National Assembly in Phnom Penh earlier this year.
Demonstrators hold signs opposing the trade union law at a protest outside the National Assembly in Phnom Penh earlier this year. Hong Menea

Better enforcement of union law needed: gov’t

Minister of Labour Ith Samheng during a meeting yesterday urged all provinces to step up enforcement of the contentious Trade Union Law, which he claimed had proven itself not to limit the freedom of unions and professional organisations, as advocates have long feared.

Samheng said yesterday that there are a total of 3,598 professional organisations, unions and federations, and that all provinces need to announce to unions that they must register and submit proper documentation.

Since the law was implemented, he continued, the number of unions registering had increased slightly, which he maintained “shows that the Union Law has not prevented freedom of unions or professional organisations”.

All the same, he warned, “Anybody who breaks the law must be punished, and I don’t care where they are from.” William Conklin, of labour rights group Solidarity Center, said yesterday that the law was still in its infancy, and that it remained to be seen what its impact would be.

“The reality is that it hasn’t really been used yet,” Conklin said, adding that an International Labour Organization team was set to review the law in the coming months after receiving a complaint about it.

Ath Thorn, president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Worker’s Democratic Union, maintained yesterday that the law limits unions’ ability to collectively bargain and strike, saying he had already seen “some problems”, while declining to offer specifics.

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