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Near Anniversary of Leader's Murder, Union Calls for Mass Rally Over Salaries

A trade union in Cambodia is seeking government permission to hold a massive rally Jan. 25 over workers' salaries and the rising cost of living in Cambodia.

Chea Mony, brother of slain union leader Chea Vichea and president of the Free Trade Union of Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia, told VOA Khmer he was seeking permission to gather 100,000 workers.

The proposed rally would come just three days after the fourth anniversary of the murder of Chea Vichea, which sparked widespread worker unrest.

Cambodia earns much of its foreign revenue from garment factories, and unions continually clash with authorities over their rights.

Chea Vichea was murdered Jan. 22, 2004.

In two separate letters, to Minister of Education Kol Pheng and Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema, Chea Mony requested permission to rally 100,000 workers from 180 factories near Olympic Stadium.

"If the wage is still low while inflation keeps increasing, and the garment factory associations have shown the increase in products in both 2006 and 2007—up to 12 percent—we'd like them to use those profits to increase the salaries of the workers," Chea Mony said.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Hun Sen told the Cambodian Union Federation in a letter Thursday the government's response to inflation could be to raise the minimum wage to $72 per month, while their living expenses are only $30 per month.

Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Union Federation, called the response "an excuse and temporary answer to avoid dealing with the problems, while inflation is worsening."