In his first public acknowledgement of the ongoing mass strike in Svay Rieng province’s Bavet town, Cambodia’s labour minister yesterday implored workers to end demonstrations and settle their grievances through arbitration.
After speaking at the Koh Pich Exhibition Center for a government-backed International Labour Day celebration, Ith Sam Heng said his ministry is coordinating talks
between employers and employees in Bavet.
“The employers are trying to find the best way to reopen their factories . . . I asked them to collect employeedemands and other relevant information to bring before the Arbitration Council,” Sam Heng said.
“We will try to get [factories] back to work as soon as possible.”
All factories in the Manhattan and Shandong Sunshell special economic zones (SEZs) have been closed since Tuesday, and the vast majority of factories at the Tai Seng SEZ are also closed.
Pav Sina, president of the Collective Union of Movement of Workers (CUMW), has estimated that 30,000 people are holding demonstrations outside factories or not going work.
Workers began striking after the Khmer New Year, demanding a $50 bonus that one factory granted workers as an incentive not to protest.
But Sam Heng said a local union incited the strike. The labour minister did not mention CUMW by name, but the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC) has repeatedly named Sina as the strike’s provocateur, despite Sina’s denials.
“It’s just a convenient excuse,” GMAC secretary-general Ken Loo said of Sina’s claim that Bavet factory workers began the strike on their own. “Now there is violence and he is trying to distance himself.”
Alleged property damage and violence was brought up by Deputy Prime Minister Men Sam An yesterday.
Police arrested one person on Tuesday for allegedly damaging a car, and GMAC has said strikers have attacked workers who did not join.
“We will try our best to solve the problem and avoid violence,” Sam An said.
Police have at times blocked gatherings in front of the factories on National Road 1, said Kem Chamroeun, CUMW’s Svay Rieng representative. But if their demands are not met, strikers will attempt to block the road, he said.