Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Unions wary of CNRP's 'political' protests




Unions wary of CNRP's 'political' protests

Kem Sokha addresses a mass of garment workers at Phnom Penh’s Freedom Park during a political rally in 2013.
Kem Sokha addresses a mass of garment workers at Phnom Penh’s Freedom Park during a political rally in 2013. Scott Howes

Unions wary of CNRP's 'political' protests

As the opposition prepares to stage mass demonstrations across the country, major independent unions – a key component of protests that followed the contested 2013 election – yesterday expressed reluctance to support a call to mobilise for protests they called “political” and not in their interests.

On Monday, the CNRP announced plans to hold mass, non-violent protests in response to the “unjust” use of the court system against its senior leadership and activists, with the party saying it hoped to get “as many as possible” on the streets.

But union leaders appear determined to sit this one out.

“It is a political protest, so we will not take part,” said Ath Thorn, president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Union. “Workers may take part as per their rights, but the union will not take part.”

Thorn acknowledged that in 2013, the CNRP’s post-election protests had merged with worker demonstrations for better wages, but said that would not happen this time around.

In 2013, following the CNRP’s boycott of the National Assembly and subsequent peaceful gatherings in Phnom Penh, party president Sam Rainsy had used his longstanding connections to the labour movement to encourage workers to join their cause to the CNRP.

However, two weeks after those overtures, violent clashes between security forces and unions at Phnom Penh’s Veng Sreng Boulevard led to the shooting deaths of five workers when authorities opened fire on protesters. A day later, they violently dispersed CNRP supporters at Freedom Park.

“In the previous protest, it was the union who organised it, but politicians gained from those protests,” said Collective Union of Movement of Workers president Pav Sina. “Even if the CNRP includes wage talks in their protest, I think it is just to gain political mileage.”

Unions are currently engaged in discussions with the government and employer representatives to set next year’s minimum wage, with Far Sally, head of the National Coalition of Trade Unions, saying that was where he intends the focus of the workers he represents to remain.

However, Chea Mony, former president of the Free Trade Union, said he would “one hundred per cent take part in the CNRP protest”.

He was backed up by Mam Seng Hak, deputy president of the FTU. “Personally, I encourage [workers] to take part so as to ensure respect of the law. The court, as we see, isn’t providing justice,” Seng Hak said.

Rainsy yesterday said that unions and workers were free to decide for themselves if they wanted to “join hands with democratic forces also fighting for social justice”, a sentiment echoed by CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann.

“Workers are Cambodians and they can also participate to find a solution,” Sovann said. “This is a problem for the whole country.”

MOST VIEWED

  • PM: West unfair to Cambodia

    Prime Minister Hun Sen released a message celebrating the International Day of Peace on Monday, saying that some major powers and western countries had been systemically cooperating to put political pressure on Cambodia as they did in the 1970s and 1980s. Hun Sen said pressuring

  • First ‘mobile kitchen’ in Cambodia enters service

    A catering company recently rolled out Cambodia’s first “mobile kitchen” – a $50,000 container capable of serving up to 200 people at a time. The kitchen is the brainchild of Seng Hok Heng Catering Services. At 4.4m-high, 6.8m-long and 2.4m-wide (expandable to 6.8m), the kitchen is equipped

  • Kingdom, China rebut basis for US sanctions

    The Council for the Development of Cambodia, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, and Tianjin Union Investment Development Group Co Ltd (Tianjin) have responded to US sanctions on Union Development Group Co Ltd (UDG), a Chinese-owned company currently developing the sprawling $3.8 billion Dara

  • Influenza breaks out in eight provinces

    Nearly 600 people have been infected with influenza in eight provinces in the past month, Ministry of Health spokesperson Or Vandine said. The ministry is advising extreme caution. A report released by Vandine on Saturday said the Ministry of Health observed transmissions of influenza between August 15

  • ‘Bad news is an investor’s best friend’ – unlocking investment potential in Cambodia

    It is time to shop. Economic woes provide good pickings for investors if they know where to look The poem If, written by English Nobel laureate poet and novelist Rudyard Kipling for his son circa 1895, is widely perceived as fatherly advice for John who would

  • CNRP activist freed; Sam Rainsy pledges return to Kingdom

    The Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Monday released former CNRP activist Oeur Narith on bail after the court ended its questioning on suspicion of receiving money from abroad and plotting to overthrow the government, according to the authorities. National Police spokesman Chhay Kim Khoeun confirmed