Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Union registration debated

Union registration debated

Unionist Ath Thorn speaks to reporters at the InterContinental Hotel in Phnom Penh
Unionist Ath Thorn speaks to reporters at the InterContinental Hotel in Phnom Penh last year during a draft trade union law workshop. A government report has dismissed concerns over union registration. Hong Menea

Union registration debated

In a wide-ranging annual report released yesterday, Minister of Labour Ith Sam Heng deflected union complaints that the ministry had made it excessively difficult to register, noting that Cambodia has about 3,000 registered unions.

Union leaders and advocates continue to criticise the ministry, saying it has used criminal background checks to stymie registration efforts. But in the report, Sam Heng says the checks – which are carried out by the Ministry of Justice – are necessary to make sure that union leaders with criminal records don’t slide by.

“We have to require criminal record checks from the Ministry of Justice,” Sam Heng says in the report. “We are worried that a union leader who has active criminal cases in Phnom Penh Municipal Court will begin a union in the provinces.”

But the Ministry of Justice background checks only began to be enforced at the beginning of 2014, after the nationwide garment worker strike, said Ath Thorn, president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union (C.CAWDU).

Criminal record checks are overly convoluted, requiring many steps and documents to complete, Thorn said yesterday.

“The criminal record [inspection] is very complicated for unions,” Thorn said. “Before, we never needed the criminal record inspection by the Ministry of Justice.”

Dave Welsh, country director for labour rights group Solidarity Center, took issue with the idea that because about 3,000 unions exist in Cambodia, union registration is easy.

Multiple unions have complained to the Solidarity Center in 2014 that the government seems to have been using requirements specifically to slow union registration, and continues to do so this year.

“For the first half of [last] year there was basically a freeze of registrations,” Welsh said. “It’s a really passive way to slow and freeze union registrations.”

The Labour Ministry report also notes that there was an 8.13-per-cent increase in factory inspections in 2014 from the previous year. Sam Heng says in the report that 50 factories have been warned about hygiene, safety and other issues, following inspections.

Ministry officials last year and this year seem to have put a greater emphasis on inspecting factories and pointing out faults when they are found, Thorn said.

“At least the Ministry of Labour has committed to [inspecting factories],” Thorn said. “I think that this is a way toward progress; before, they did not do this, they just allowed the factories to do what they do.”

Welsh also said that any increase in inspections and warnings to factories that deviate from required standards is positive. However, he added, it remains to be seen whether these warnings will be followed up.

Ministry of Labour spokesman Heng Sour did not immediately reply to requests for comment.


  • Bareknuckle champion wants Kun Khmer fighter

    Dave Leduc, who is the current openweight Lethwei boxing champion in Myanmar, has announced that he will travel to Cambodia this year to challenge SEA Games gold medallist Prum Samnang any time that is convenient, after their planned match later this month in Slovakia was

  • Struggling Battambang artist dreams of staging full-scale gallery exhibition

    Leav Kimchhoth, a 55-year-old artist from Battambang province, is a familiar face to locals and tourists alike on the streets of the riverside in Phnom Penh. The one-armed painter and illustrator often hawks his work near the night market on weekends and public holidays. He

  • Five-year-old Hanuman dances his way into hearts of Cambodia

    A young talent from a new-established settlement has emerged, captivating the online world with his mesmerising performances of the traditional Cambodian monkey dance. Roeun Kakada is a five-year-old prodigy who has taken the social media sphere by storm with his exceptional dance skills and dedication

  • Fresh Covid warnings as Thai hospital fills

    A senior health official reminds the public to remain vigilant, as neighbouring countries experience an increase in Covid-19 cases, with the latest surge appearing to be a result of the Omicron XBB.1.5 sub-variant. Or Vandine, secretary of state and spokeswoman for the Ministry of Health,

  • New Law on Taxation comes into effect

    Cambodia has enacted the eagerly-awaited new Law on Taxation, which aims to improve the national tax regime’s compliance with present and future international standards and economic conditions; encourage accountability, effectiveness and transparency in the collection process; and promote investment in the Kingdom. King Norodom

  • PM warns of int’l election interference

    With the national election scheduled to take place in less than two months, Prime Minister Hun Sen has warned foreign nations and their diplomats not to interfere into Cambodia’s domestic affairs. He also hinted that their statements on court verdicts handed down to any