Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Labour Ministry downplays Walmart's concerns over working conditions, politics

Labour Ministry downplays Walmart's concerns over working conditions, politics

Walmart executive Scott Price (left) meets Labour Minister Ith Samheng during a visit to Cambodia in November.
Walmart executive Scott Price (left) meets Labour Minister Ith Sam Heng during a visit to Cambodia in November. Facebook

Labour Ministry downplays Walmart's concerns over working conditions, politics

Cambodia's Ministry of Labour today downplayed concerns expressed by American retail giant Walmart, which had written the minister a letter asking the government to improve working conditions in the country and to treat the US government and NGOs with “fairness”.

The letter was sent by Scott Price, executive vice president for Walmart, to Labour Minister Ith Sam Heng on December 6, and was received and posted to Facebook by Sam Heng on Tuesday. In the letter, Price reiterates the retailer’s commitment to sourcing from Cambodia but says their consumers expect high standards of “social and labour conditions” in countries they source from.

“[We] respectfully ask that your government continue to improve working conditions for Cambodian factory workers and treat our government and civil society with fairness, in accordance with international standards and norms,” the letter reads.

Cambodia has been at the receiving end of near-universal condemnation as a result of the government’s sustained clampdown on civil society organisations, independent media outlets and the country's only viable opposition party, which was summarily dissolved by the Supreme Court last month. The United States found itself the target of a barrage of criticism amid the crackdown, with numerous government officials, including Prime Minister Hun Sen, accusing it of conspiring with the now-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party to overthrow the government.

In response to the dissolution, the US imposed visa restrictions on top ruling party officials and withdrew funding from Cambodia's National Election Committee. The European Union also withdrew its funding from the NEC, and its parliament has asked the European Commission to consider temporarily suspending Cambodia's preferential trade status with the bloc.

Labour Ministry spokesman Heng Sour, however, maintained that Walmart's letter was entirely positive because of its use of the word “continue”, which he argued meant that the Cambodian government was already fulfilling the requirements outlined.

“I don’t think this is the criticism of the government. When you say ‘continue to improve’, it recognises the improvement,” Sour said. “The relationship between the US and Cambodia is normal, and cooperation with civil society and unions from US is still going smoothly.”

MOST VIEWED

  • Rainsy stopped in Paris from boarding Thai flight

    Airline officials at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport on Thursday prevented Sam Rainsy from boarding his flight to Bangkok ahead of his announced return to Cambodia on Saturday. Prime Minister Hun Sen had earlier in the day assured Phnom Penh residents that there would be

  • Analyst: Rainsy blocked from boarding flight 'an excuse'

    THAI Airways not allowing Sam Rainsy on its route from Paris to Bangkok on Thursday is being used as an excuse to keep his standing among fellow coup plotters and his uninformed supporters as flights to non-Asean countries are available, an analyst said on Friday.

  • Rainsy lands in Malaysia

    Cambodian opposition figure Sam Rainsy arrived in Kuala Lumpur airport on Saturday afternoon after boarding a flight from Paris, where he has been living for more than four years. Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation spokesperson Koy Kuong said on Saturday that Cambodia respected

  • Touch: Rainsy will never return

    Sam Rainsy, the “acting president” of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), has claimed it has achieved 70 per cent of its struggle to find a solution to the current political situation in the Kingdom. Just before boarding a plane at Charles de Gaulle

  • Sokha continues call for dropping of charge after bail conditions reduced

    Not satisfied with having his bail conditions reduced, allowing him to travel freely in Cambodia, Kem Sokha says he wants his charge totally dropped. “As an innocent man who has been in detention for two years even without being found guilty, I continue to demand

  • MEPs' call for Rainsy's safety not European Parliament position

    The European Parliament said on Friday that a statement by 56 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) calling for guarantees of Sam Rainsy’s freedom and safety should he return to Cambodia did not represent its position. Delphine Colard, the European Parliament’s press officer told