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Hun Sen Weighs In on Labor Disputes

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday made a public appeal for the courts to drop charges against workers participating in a general strike earlier this month, in a move that proved popular with labor leaders.

His appeal came after the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia ruled out a request from the Ministry of Labor that factories walk away from cases they filed against the leaders of the strikes, where thousands of workers demanded better incomes to offset the rising cost of living.

“I would like to request the court to drop charges against workers and the trade union leaders and to request all factories to take the workers back to work,” Hun Sen said, speaking at the graduation ceremony for the National Education Institute. “This is a win-win resolution.”

GMAC officials declined to comment on the statement Wednesday, but they have said in the past the factories have the right to file against the strikes, which they called illegal.

Hun Sen said Wednesday that if the court complaints went forward, the strikes would continue. He urged factories to find ways to better compensate their workers—who belong to Cambodia's top-earning industry—and he urged employees to “work hard for the gain of the companies.”

“This is a fair gesture by Prime Minister Hun Sen to take care of the workers,” said Ath Thun, president of the Cambodian Labor Confederation and a leader of the strikes.

He said around 150 workers from 17 factories had not been allowed back to work, following four days of strikes that cost factories as much as $15 million.

A Kandal provincial court official said he would hold a “legal examination” of the cases in light of Hun Sen's remarks.

Meanwhile, both managers and labor leaders have been working on improving negotiations. Both have agreed to send five members each into a commission, and they have signed off on a nine-point agreement to improve negotiations.