Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - GMAC urges international community to continue supporting garment industry amid political crackdown

GMAC urges international community to continue supporting garment industry amid political crackdown

Labour Minister Ith Sam Heng (centre) speaks to union and factory representatives during a Labour Advisory Committee meeting last year in Phnom Penh.
Labour Minister Ith Sam Heng (centre) speaks to union and factory representatives during a Labour Advisory Committee meeting last year in Phnom Penh. Pha Lina

GMAC urges international community to continue supporting garment industry amid political crackdown

Garment industry representatives and unions are urging foreign buyers to ignore Cambodia’s deteriorating political climate and to continue financially supporting the Kingdom’s largest export industry.

On Friday, the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC) issued an open letter to the United Nations, European Union, United States and other foreign embassies asking for continued economic support for the garment industry and its 700,000 workers.

The statement followed five separate letters from trade unions, urging foreign buyers to continue purchasing Cambodian garments despite the recent dissolution of the country’s main opposition and a clampdown on civil society and media organisations.

GMAC’s Deputy Secretary-General Kaing Monika said the organisation is concerned foreign buyers will reduce their purchases in response to the Cambodian government’s recent actions to stifle dissenting voices.

“We’re just worried there might be some misunderstanding by the US or EU about the decisions of our government,” Monika said. “What we are trying to say is to caution people not to misunderstand the situation in Cambodia.”

GMAC’s letter described Cambodia’s workers as “currently happy” with next year’s $170 monthly minimum wage and their benefits, referencing elements of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s charm offensive to win workers’ hearts ahead of the national election in July.

Fa Saly, president of the National Trade Union of Cambodia, said the letter campaign was not a concerted effort among the unions and GMAC, but the organisations do share an interest in protecting the industry and workers’ jobs.

“Cambodia very much relies on the garment industry, and we support GMAC and we’ll continue to submit that statement to the EU Embassy and related embassy’s representatives,” Saly said.

In response to the rapid dissolution of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party’s primary opposition, the EU has pointedly noted that Cambodia’s Everything But Arms (EBA) trade status – which allows the nation’s garments and other exports duty-free access to their markets – is dependent on respect for human rights. The US, meanwhile, has pulled election funding, and lawmakers in Washington have publicly floated the possibility of sanctions.

Monika said he believed the EU would not cancel the EBA if they “correctly considered” the Cambodian government’s’ decision, but he does not believe losing EBA status would cause irreparable damage.

“Even if we’re going to lose it, we could still survive,” he said. “It would just demote a level of competitiveness. I think it would be an opportunity as well for the country to reform in order to survive.”

Representatives of the EU Delegation in Cambodia could not be reached, and the US Embassy declined to comment.

Cambodian Alliance of Trade Unions President Yang Sophorn said her organisation also didn’t want to lose purchases from the US or EU, though it decided not to put out a letter. Sophorn said the onus was on the government to ensure Cambodia complies with foreign buyers’ requirements for human rights protection.

“If the prime minister makes the right decision for the Cambodian economy as well as workers, all people will benefit from it and there would be no more concerns about losing jobs and income,” she said.


  • 12th Cambodia int’l film festival to see return of Hollywood star

    Phnom Penh is set to come alive with the magic of cinema as the highly anticipated 12th Cambodia International Film Festival (CIFF) takes centre stage. Boasting an impressive line-up of 188 films from 23 countries, including captivating shorts, feature films, documentaries and animation, the festival promises an

  • Brawl marrs football final as Indonesian take gold in seven goal thriller

    The Indonesian men's U22 men national football team were crowned champions of the 32nd SEA Games in Cambodia, defeating Thailand 5-2 in extra time on May 16 at Olympic National Stadium in Phnom Penh. The match was marred by an ugly incident that occured in the 91

  • Bareknuckle champion wants Kun Khmer fighter

    Dave Leduc, who is the current openweight Lethwei boxing champion in Myanmar, has announced that he will travel to Cambodia this year to challenge SEA Games gold medallist Prum Samnang any time that is convenient, after their planned match later this month in Slovakia was

  • Candlelight Party disqualified from July general election

    The National Election Committee (NEC) has disqualified the Candlelight Party (CP) from contesting the upcoming general election, citing a lack of valid documentation. NEC spokesman Khorn Keomono said the CP failed to fulfil one of the three main requirements: including original documentation proving their registration

  • Thong Khon calls for orderly SEA Games closing ceremony

    Thong Khon, Minister of Tourism and permanent vice-president of the Cambodia SEA Games Organising Committee (CAMSOC), calls on all people who have received tickets to the May 17 closing ceremony of the biennial multi-sports extravaganza at the Morodok Techo National Stadium to ensure that the event

  • 1.4 billion dollar Phnom Penh-Bavet expressway due in four years

    The Government, through the Ministry of Public Works and Transport, has officially signed a public-private partnership agreement with a private company for the construction of a Phnom Penh-Bavet Expressway project that will connect the capital to Svay Rieng province. The budget for the project is