Prime Minister Hun Sen has called on provincial governors to safeguard workers’ rights and promptly address labour issues at the grassroots level, without waiting for intervention from the labour ministry.

During his meeting with factory workers in Kampong Speu province’s Kong Pisei district on June 4, Hun Sen emphasised provincial authorities, especially governors, have the authority to mediate disputes within their respective regions.

“We make every effort to resolve problems in factories as soon as they arise, taking full responsibility for safeguarding workers’ rights. Our state authorities are unmatched in their commitment to protecting these rights,” he said. “Provincial governors must remember that unions can lead protests, but the authorities, such as the labour department, are the true problem solvers who can resolve issues immediately.”

He also instructed authorities at all levels to take the lead in protecting workers’ rights and collaborate in swiftly resolving any disputes, without relying solely on unions and the labour ministry for solutions.

He told relevant officials to conduct thorough inspections of workers’ food canteens, breastfeeding facilities, and healthcare centres within factories.

Simultaneously, Hun Sen reminded workers to consider factories as their source of sustenance, akin to a rice pot, while also urging factory owners to respect workers’ rights and adhere to the country’s laws for the benefit of all parties involved.

“Keep in mind the factory is our rice pot, so we should refrain from engaging in destructive actions. However, this does not grant factory owners the liberty to disregard our laws and workers’ rights. We need to complement each other,” Hun Sen emphasised.

Kong Atith, the president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Union (CCAWDU), hailed the Prime Minister’s message as a positive and inspiring one that encourages all provincial authorities to actively participate in resolving workers’ disputes.

Atith further proposed all concerned parties work together effectively and peacefully to settle such disputes, avoiding any form of violence.

“In cases where there are protests, provincial authorities are responsible for resolving labour disputes based on their jurisdiction. However, if there are only complaints on labour disputes, officials from the labour department will handle the matter based on their expertise,” he said.

At times, tensions between workers and authorities may emerge. In such a case, Atith stressed the importance of peaceful settlements.

According to the labour ministry, the number of garment factories has risen to 1,326 this year, employing approximately 840,000 workers, of which 660,000 are women. Phnom Penh municipality alone has 727 factories, providing employment for about 340,000 workers, of which 260,000 are women.

The total export value amounts to around $13 billion in 2022.

Currently, there are over 17,000 factories and enterprises across the country, employing around 1.5 million people.