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

  • Ministry issues warning over coronavirus outbreak

    The Ministry of Health on Wednesday asked the public to be on “high alert” as a new virus wreaks havoc across Asia. However, no cases have been reported in the Kingdom thus far. The 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) has raised the alarm for its similarity to

  • Call for boycott of Angkor unacceptable

    Dear Editor, I wish to express my strong disagreement on the article published by Traveller for their website with the title Best places to go in 2020: 12 destinations you should avoid. Below is my opinion of the article. It is obviously free for the Traveller to

  • Probe underway after wreckage of drone with Chinese characters found

    Air Force Command spokesman Prak Sokha said on Sunday that investigations are underway regarding the wreckage of a drone that was recovered in Koh Kong province’s Koh Sdech commune in Kiri Sakor district. The wreckage has been taken to the capital for further examination,

  • Gov’t slams UN rapporteurs over Sokha trial statement

    The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and the Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of Cambodia to the UN Office in Geneva deplored the statement of three UN special rapporteurs who claimed that Kem Sokha’s trial was “tainted” due to irregularities. The reaction

  • No power shortages next dry season, says energy minister

    Minister of Mines and Energy Suy Sem has assured the public that Cambodia will not suffer power shortages during the next dry season. Speaking on local TV on Tuesday, Sem projected a rise in power demand during 2020’s dry season – which starts in November and

  • Gov’t takes steps to lower logistics, transport costs

    With the threat of losing trade privileges in the EU drawing closer, the government is taking measures to reduce logistics and transportation costs to safeguard the Kingdom’s competitiveness. The EU is due to decide whether or not to withdraw the Kingdom’s trade privileges