Prime Minister Hun Sen has officially announced that the government will provide cash assistance to over 32,000 workers in the textile-related sectors whose employment has been suspended due to a reduction in purchasing orders, or whose factories have ceased operations.

While addressing a March 7 event in celebrations of this year’s March 8 International Women’s Day, he noted the importance of an inclusive social protection for the most vulnerable in any society.

“I want to let women know that the government cares about their welfare. Yesterday, I signed permission for cash transfers to be given to those who have been suspended from factory work,” he said.

“I have decided that we will support them through this difficult time, just as we did during the Covid-19 era when so many factories were shuttered,” he added.

He advised Minister of Labour and Vocational Training Ith Samheng to make sure his officials see that everyone who is eligible receive the payments. He also recommended that pregnant women and new mothers receive additional cash assistance to make sure they remain healthy.

On March 6, Hun Sen tasked Samheng and Minister of Economy and Finance Aun Pornmoniroth with finding an urgent solution to the suspensions.

Pornmoniroth sent the request to Hun Sen, after determining the cash payments are necessary.

Labour ministry spokesman Heng Sour said that as of February 28, a total of 71 factories – 34 in Phnom Penh and 37 in Kampong Speu province – had suspended a total of 32,023 workers, 20,013 of them in Kampong Speu.

Samheng chaired a March 7 meeting with representatives from the ministries of labour and economy, as well as factory representatives. The meeting aimed to establish cooperation on the payments to suspended workers.

“The factory representatives explained that purchasing orders had declined due to the global economic crisis triggered by the Russia-Ukraine conflict, in addition to the lingering effects of the Covid-19 pandemic,” said the labour ministry.

It added that the number of suspended workers appeared to be on the rise, and it was not yet certain when the situation would be reversed.

The private sector representatives offered their gratitude to Hun Sen for helping the private sector to keep their businesses afloat in times of crisis. They were also grateful that the government would allow the workers to keep their positions until production at the factories resumed.

Samheng said thanked the private sector, especially the employers’ associations, for their “excellent” cooperation during the previous crisis.

“I expect this round of payments to go as smoothly,” he said.