Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Labour unrest continues

Labour unrest continues

Starlight Factory employees stand in front of a garment factory yesterday in Kandal province where a protest turned violent when security forces blocked them from marching toward the capital. Photo supplied
Starlight Factory employees stand in front of a garment factory yesterday in Kandal province where a protest turned violent when security forces blocked them from marching toward the capital. Photo supplied

Labour unrest continues

An ongoing labour dispute turned violent yesterday after striking garment workers in Kandal province said they were attacked by security guards, while in a separate case involving labour-related violence, a prominent union leader was summonsed for questioning over a scuffle he has publicly accused factory owners of planning themselves.

At about 8:30am yesterday morning in Kandal province’s Khsach Kandal district, workers from the Starlight garment factory rallied with an outside union to march to Phnom Penh.

But the workers, who have been protesting over the recent dismissal of eight employees they say were trying to start a union, were met with unexpected resistance near the factory.

“A group of security guards from the factory and the 7NG [economic zone] came over, some holding knives, and violently attacked union officials and workers,” said Sieng Rithy, director of the Cambodian Labor Solidarity Union Federation.

Eight workers and unionists were slightly injured in the ensuing melee, while one worker, Sem Seth, was more seriously hurt, Rithy said.

Contacted by the Post, Seth said he was slashed in the neck by a knife-wielding security guard, but that he had returned home after a stint at a local public hospital.

While workers managed to complete their march, no arrests were made following the violence. Provincial police chief Ev Chamroeun yesterday said police were investigating but declined to offer further details.

Meanwhile, in another case where authorities and employers have been accused of orchestrating violence against workers, prominent union leader Pav Sina and another union official have been summoned to appear at Kampong Speu Provincial Court for questioning over a violent incident at the Agile Sweater factory last month.

Union leader Pav Sina speaks at a press conference in Phnom Penh last month.
Union leader Pav Sina speaks at a press conference in Phnom Penh last month. Pha Lina

The summons effectively expands the case of five Collective Union of Movement of Worker unionists who were arrested during the scuffle on January 12 but bailed out six days later. The five unionists were also named in the summons, along with CUMW official Suth Chet.

The seven CUMW members must appear at the court on February 29 lest they be arrested, provincial investigating judge Men Vannak wrote in the summons.

Pav Sina has publicly claimed that the scuffle was trumped up by local authorities acting in cahoots with employers. CUMW officials said they were the ones who were attacked after they came to the factory to assist workers who had been protesting for weeks, blaming a pro-factory union.

“On January 12, we only went to meet the factory representatives to solve the problems requested by workers, but at that time, the pro-factory union men beat 11 union officials with sticks and knives, including myself – I was beaten on my head and my back,” said Chet, who was present at the scene.

He said that the CUMW would comply with the court’s demand.William Conklin, country director for the Solidarity Centre, said it was not uncommon for employers to use violence in labour disputes, especially when factory owners and local authorities tended to be “all locally connected”.

“They would rather use violence to get things their way . . . they have impunity,” he said.But Ken Loo, spokesman for the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia, said that such sinister tactics would be counterproductive for employers.

“We never condone violence by any party, because that’s not the way to resolve any labour dispute.”

According to figures released during a City Hall meeting on Friday, 443 protests took place in Phnom Penh in 2015, one more than in 2014.

Almost exactly half of those protests – 222 – were by garment workers.

MOST VIEWED

  • Hong Kong firm done buying Coke Cambodia

    Swire Coca-Cola Ltd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Hong Kong-listed Swire Pacific Ltd, on November 25 announced that it had completed the acquisition of The Coca-Cola Co’s bottling business in Cambodia, as part of its ambitions to expand into the Southeast Asian market. Swire Coca-Cola affirmed

  • Cambodia's Bokator now officially in World Heritage List

    UNESCO has officially inscribed Cambodia’s “Kun Lbokator”, commonly known as Bokator, on the World Heritage List, according to Minister of Culture and Fine Arts Phoeurng Sackona in her brief report to Prime Minister Hun Sen on the night of November 29. Her report, which was

  • NagaWorld union leader arrested at airport after Australia trip

    Chhim Sithar, head of the Labour Rights Supported Union of Khmer Employees at NagaWorld integrated casino resort, was arrested on November 26 at Phnom Penh International Airport and placed in pre-trial detention after returning from a 12-day trip to Australia. Phnom Penh Municipal Court Investigating Judge

  • Angkor Beer, 30 Years of Prestige and Still Counting

    Let’s celebrate 30 years of prestige with Angkor Beer. In this 2022, Angkor Beer is 30 years old and has been staying with Cambodian hearts in all circumstances. Head of core beer portfolio, EmYuthousaid, “We have been with Cambodians for three decades now. We, ANGKOR Beer, pride

  • Sub-Decree approves $30M for mine clearance

    The Cambodian government established the ‘Mine-Free Cambodia 2025 Foundation’, and released an initial budget of $30 million. Based on the progress of the foundation in 2023, 2024 and 2025, more funds will be added from the national budget and other sources. In a sub-decree signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen

  • Two senior GDP officials defect to CPP

    Two senior officials of the Grassroots Democratic Party (GDP) have asked to join the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), after apparently failing to forge a political alliance in the run-up to the 2023 general election. Yang Saing Koma, chairman of the GDP board, and Lek Sothear,