Global unions are mobilizing workers around the world to protest at Cambodian embassies on Monday 10 February, to demand the release of 23 activists seized during demonstrations in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh in January.
IndustriALL Global Union, UNI Global Union and the ITUC together with NGO partners, are garnering international support in solidarity for protestors who were arrested during demonstrations by garment workers for higher wages last month. The call to action to “Free the 23” comes on the eve of a Cambodian court hearing for the workers on 11 February.
Protests are expected to take place outside Cambodian embassies inBerlin, Brussels, Geneva, Honk Kong, Jakarta, London andSeoul amongst others. Demonstrators will present a letter to the ambassador condemning the violence against the garment workers and demanding the release of the 23 detainees. The letter also calls on the government to respect the right to freedom of association.
The detainees, which include trade union activists and garment workers, were incarcerated after peaceful rallies on 2 and 3 of January were met with brutal force by Cambodian police, which opened fire on demonstrators leaving four people dead and 39 injured.
“We implore the Cambodian authorities release the 23 detainees immediately. Imprisoning, intimidating and inflicting violence on garment workers will not succeed in silencing their demands for a just wage and decent working conditions,” said IndustriALL’s General Secretary Jyrki Raina.
The planned action follows an open letter to the Cambodian Prime Minister, Hun Sen, from IndustriALL, UNI and ITUC together with 30 of the world’s major clothing brands, including Walmart, Nike and H&M, demanding a thorough investigation into the perpetrators of the killings and appealing to the government to honour its commitment to establish a fair and inclusive process for determining a new minimum wage.
The Cambodian government has so far been unresponsive while the garment manufacturers have taken a confrontational approach to union demands.
The past few months have seen a succession of strikes by Cambodian garment workers seeking to double the industry’s minimum wage to US $160 a month.
Cambodia has more than 500,000 garment workers with textiles making up 80% of the country’s exports. The country’s low wages and government incentives for businesses have seen a boom in the textile industry worth some 5 billion US dollars per year, while living standards for workers have not increased.