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Union leader warns of protests

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Rong Chhun speaks at a press conference on Tuesday. Hong Menea

Union leader warns of protests

A prominent union leader on Tuesday threatened to hold a large-scale demonstration if the newly elected government ignores the European Union’s resolution demanding a political compromise between the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) and the court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP).

At a press conference, Cambodian Confederation of Unions (CCU) president Rong Chhun urged the government to accept the EU resolution to avoid economic consequences of possible sanctions, which include a suspension of the Everything But Arms (EBA) scheme.

A compromise, he said, will help Cambodia sustain its economic growth and retain the jobs of around 800,000 garment workers.

Chhun expressed concerns about the future of garment workers who might lose their jobs and other benefits if the government refused to comply with the EU, one of the largest markets for its garment products.

“If the EU ends Cambodia’s tariff-free exports and imposes an economic embargo, garment workers will lose their jobs and Cambodia will fall into a crisis.

“I think politicians from the ruling CPP and opposition CNRP must sit and talk to find political solutions and organise a free and fair election to avoid political and economic crises in Cambodia,” he said.

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said Chhun’s threat of a demonstration is just a pretext used to cause social chaos or to serve foreign political interests.

“The authorities at all levels will take legal action according to the law to maintain national sovereignty, independence and solidarity. Let me remind Rong Chhun and his group that Cambodia is not an EU colony. Cambodia has had very good cooperation with the EU for decades,” he said.

Former CNRP lawmaker Ou Chanrath said that whatever decision the EU makes, it is meant to restore democracy in Cambodia.

“The government should follow the EU’s decisions and then just do its best. A demonstration is a reflection of the will [of the people]. When they can hardly survive, and their freedom and livelihoods are affected, it’s just a matter of time before they stand up [to the government],” he said.

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