Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Labour advocates hold May Day rally in Phnom Penh

Labour advocates hold May Day rally in Phnom Penh

Workers listen to CLC President Ath Thorn on International Labour Day near Phnom Penh's Wat Phnom.
Workers listen to CLC President Ath Thorn on International Labour Day near Phnom Penh’s Wat Phnom. Sreng Meng Srun

Labour advocates hold May Day rally in Phnom Penh

The Cambodian Labour Confederation held a May Day rally near Wat Phnom on Tuesday morning, with nearly 1,000 workers gathering to demand a minimum wage of $207 and expressing disappointment at the impact of the Kingdom’s controversial Trade Union Law.

Phnom Penh authorities were out in full force to meet the demonstrators, with more than 100 police officers and Daun Penh district security guards present at the rally.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post

The labour federation had initially asked to march from near the Council for the Development of Cambodia by Wat Phnom to the National Assembly, but Phnom Penh City Hall denied them permission, only allowing for a rally along the riverside.

Workers braved intense heat as confederation President Ath Thorn called on the government to ensure that the minimum wage is opened up to all sectors and that it reaches $207 per month. The current minimum wage of $170 applies only to the garment sector, and negotiations over a universal minimum wage draft law are ongoing.

Thorn also reiterated concerns over the 2016 Trade Union Law, which has been criticised for curbing union organisation, recruitment and activities, while also acknowledging the government has been more attentive to workers’ concerns this last year.

“We can see the prime minister cares more about the workers this year after 10 years of working in the sector,” he said.

Read more: Trade Union Law having desired effect?

Thorn’s speech was interrupted by a worker fainting because of the heat, prompting the entire rally to move to a more shaded location.

Four lawmakers – one from the ruling Cambodian People’s Party and three from Funcinpec – met the workers and accepted a petition containing 19 demands, which included an occupational safety law across sectors, formation of labour courts and a curb on factories’ overuse of short-term contracts.

Accepting the petition, CPP lawmaker Lao Kheng said she had received a similar petition last year and that the government had followed up on some of the suggestions.

“I promise to bring the 19 points in this petition to discuss among the first committee of the National Assembly and to submit it to the government to inform them about the concerns and the demands of the workers,” she said.

Kea Sophal, a garment worker from Russey Keo district, said her factory continued to keep her on three-month contracts, giving her little job security or seniority – which will ultimately affect her benefits.

“We’ve gotten so tired after 10 years of working, so we’re considering doing something else,” she said.

Prime Minister Hun Sen has been aggressively courting garment workers by meeting with them on a weekly basis and offering handouts for factory employees, such as “baby bonuses” and improved health care.

Continuing his outreach, the premier met with around 5,000 workers from the Phnom Penh Special Economic Zone on Tuesday, announcing early on that he was there only to celebrate International Labour Day with the workers and not make a speech. The workers each received food, drink and around 50,000 riel (about $12.50) in cash, and danced to celebrate the occasion.

Security was also tight on the road leading to National Assembly, where another group of unionists from Solidarity House submitted a petition to parliament.

Union leaders Ou Tepphalin and Yang Sophorn were allowed to submit the document, with the former questioning the need for the heavy security detail.

“It is hard to say [why]. They just said this is the order from their top leaders,” she said.

MOST VIEWED

  • Website advises travellers to stay clear of Angkor Wat

    An Australian website has advised travellers to avoid Angkor Wat during their trip to Southeast Asia because the ancient temple is showing signs of rapid erosion and faced water management issues. In a recent article entitled Best places to go in 2020: 12 destinations you should avoid

  • Chinese firms to build new PP airport

    Three enterprises, all Chinese-owned, have been chosen to build the new airport that will service the Cambodian capital, the company in charge of the project said. Cambodia Airport Investment Co Ltd said a total of five companies had entered the bidding process. Yee Con Long,

  • Passenger taxi boat ridership sinks despite free services

    Passenger taxi boat traffic has dropped by about five per cent compared to the same period last year, despite the government providing free service for garment workers until next year, Phnom Penh Autonomous Bus Transportation Authority director Ean Sokhim said on Monday. In 2018, the Phnom

  • Shipments of mango to South Korea poised to begin this week

    Exports of Cambodian mangoes to South Korea will begin this week after Korean authorities gave the nod. The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries’ Department of Plant Protection, Sanitary and Phytosanitary Requirements director Ker Monthivuth told The Post on Sunday that after several inspections of

  • Kingdom drafting new law to strengthen immigration

    The Ministry of Interior on Tuesday said it had formed a working group to draft amendments to the Law on Immigration. Its secretary of state Sok Phal told The Post that the amendments will strengthen the management of immigrants in line with the current situation.

  • First deportees of the year touch down in Cambodia

    Twenty-five Cambodian-Americans landed in Phnom Penh on Wednesday, marking the first such deportations of the year. “On Wednesday, US law enforcement authorities deported 25 Cambodian nationals that immigration judges determined had no legal basis to remain in the US,” said Arend Zwartjes, spokesperson for the US