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Workers March in May Day Demonstration

Thousands of garment factory workers took to the streets in Phnom Penh Friday, marking May Day with a set of demands for better pay and conditions for the government.

Hundreds of police were deployed to maintain security, as workers marched with placards demanding higher wages, the establishment of a labor court and a halt to discrimination against free trade.

Chea Mony, president of the Free Trade Union, said the goal of the march was to encourage the National Assembly to accept a petition with suggestions from improving conditions for laborers.

“I hope the Cambodian government will receive our petition of workers and consider our demands, because the garment sector is important in helping Cambodia’s economy,” he said.

Garment exports are one of Cambodia’s main earners, but the sector has been hit hard by the global financial crisis, as orders for goods from the US and other markets have slowed.

Tens of thousands of workers have been laid off since the onset of the crisis in September 2008, with some factories closing their doors or reducing their staff.

Art Thun, president of the Cambodian Laborer Confederation, said Friday the country needs to improve the conditions for workers, who are usually abused by garment factory owners.

Workers on Friday urged the government to “very quickly” put in place an arbitration court to handle labor conflicts. They also want the government to force garment factories to keep a deposit in the bank to prevent bankruptcy.