Anti-Raffles Demonstrations Held Abroad

Early calls for a boycott of Raf­fles-owned luxury hotels in Cam­bodia have met a muted response locally but touched off small de­monstrations abroad.

In London, international union members on June 8 handed out leaflets in front of the Raffles How­ard Hotel, denouncing the Singapore-based hotel chain for firing some 300 workers from Phnom Penh’s Hotel Le Royal and its sister hotel, Grand Hotel d’Angkor in Siem Reap, according to the Web site of IUF, an in­ter­national union.

An Australian union is planning a similar campaign on Friday in front of a Raffles-managed hotel in Sydney, according to a posting  from that country’s Liquor, Hos­pitality and Miscellaneous Union, which claims about 130,000 members.

Gradually, support for the fired workers in Cambodia will grow, said Alonzo Suson, director of the American Center for Inter­national Labor Solidarity in Phnom Penh, an arm of the US-based AFL-CIO union federation.

“It’s a moral obligation when you have a corporation like Raffles not following the law of the land,” Suson said Tuesday.

His group is hoping to mobilize international unions and organize a boycott here to pressure the Raffles chain to allow the fired workers to return to their jobs.

Le Royal illegally dismissed 97 employees and forged a bogus agreement with an illegally formed workers’ representative group following a strike in April, according to the independent Ar­bitration Council.

A similar case involving some 200 workers fired from Grand Hotel d’Angkor is currently under the Council’s consideration.

Raffles management in Sing­apore has rejected the Council’s Le Royal ruling, which is nonbinding.

It maintains that workers re­fused to return to work after striking illegally, and that the newly formed workers’ groups at the two hotels are legitimate.

On Tuesday, Raffles’ country man­­ager Stephan Gnaegi de­clined immediate comment on the proposed boycott’s effects.

An informal survey of em­bassies Tuesday suggested the boycott calls have met a sluggish response from Phnom Penh’s in­ternational community.

Only a handful of Washington-based groups—such as ACILS, the International Republican Institute and the National De­mocratic Institute—are publicly participating in the boycott.

Other organizations and em­bassies contacted Tuesday re­fused to comment on whether they were severing ties to Raffles or said they had no knowledge of a boycott.

Representatives at the em­bassies of Japan, Indonesia, India, Germany and Australia all said they had not considered a boycott.

The British and US Embassies and the UN Development Pro­gramme declined direct comment on the boycott.

The government, which frequently participates in events held at Le Royal, has not indicated it might boycott.

Council of Ministers spokes­man Khieu Thavika hung up on a reporter seeking comment Tues­day.


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