Surya Subedi, the United Nations special rapporteur on human rights, agreed to take concerns raised over the government’s draft union law during a one-hour meeting with union leaders Ath Thorn and Rong Chhun to a meeting of the UN in Geneva in June, the pair told reporters yesterday.
Outside the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Phnom Penh, Ath Thorn, president of Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Union, said he had raised concerns with Subedi that the law would give excessive arbitrary state control over trade unions.
“This law restricts the creation [of unions] and when they are already created it makes it easy to destroy them,” he said.
“And when they are destroyed, the leaders of [the unions] face imprisonment.”
Particular attention was drawn, Ath Thorn said, to article 85 of the law, which he said allows the imprisonment of those who obstructs the operation of a business.
Om Mean, secretary of state of at the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training defended the draft law yesterday, saying continuing debate within the government was intended to ensure the law struck the right balance between the interests of unions, employees and employers.
Rong Chhun and Ath Thorn said they also raised concerns at yesterday’s meeting over workers from 13 factories who had been refused permission to return to work after participating in garment strike in September last year that involved tens of thousands of employees. Surya Subedi could not be reached for comment.