The Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) has submitted a new law to the National Assembly for consideration that would institute a minimum monthly wage of $150 for garment workers and $250 for civil servants, the newly formed opposition party announced at a press conference yesterday.
The minimum-wage draft law, as well as a second proposed law that would see the creation of agricultural cooperatives were sent to the National Assembly on Wednesday, said Son Chhay, party whip of the Sam Rainsy Party—which last year merged with the Human Rights Party to form the CNRP and challenge the ruling CPP in July’s national elections.
The Council of Ministers last week passed a draft law establishing agricultural cooperatives.
Speaking at the CNRP’s headquarters in Phnom Penh, Mr. Chhay said that funding for increased salaries for garment workers and government employees would come from higher taxes on casinos and economic land concessions.
“We know how to get the money. We will pay them by collecting [more] taxes on casinos and land concessions,” he said, vowing that if that CNRP wins the election in July and fails to institute the suggested wage hike, all opposition lawmakers would resign.
While the government mandates a $61 minimum wage for garment workers, there is no specified equivalent for civil servants, who are largely exempt from the country’s labor laws.
CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap yesterday said the CNRP’s promise to institute higher wages was mere politicking.
“This is nothing new. This is for their political benefit and is the normal behavior of the losers,” Mr. Yeap said by telephone, arguing that the CPP has increased civil servant salaries by 20 percent every year.
In an open letter sent by Sam Rainsy to the country’s civil servants—which was posted to the CNRP’s website on February 12—the opposition leader says government paychecks are so small that civil servants are forced to literally beg for money. Affixed to his letter was a photograph from a local newspaper showing hundreds of police and soldiers waiting to receive envelopes of cash outside the Phnom Penh mansion of well-known businesswoman Choeung Sopheap during the recent Chinese New Year.
“As a Cambodian, I am embarrassed that a large number of civil servants, police officers and soldiers have to beg for money from businessmen in order to survive,” Mr. Rainsy wrote in the letter.
“I do not blame you. I blame the current government which does not pay much attention to you, who deserve a decent salary.”
Mr. Rainsy—who fled to France in 2009 to avoid an 11-year prison sentence on charges widely seen as politically motivated—is scheduled to visit Singapore, Malaysia and Burma beginning today, according to the CNRP. During the 10-day regional tour, he will meet with Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim and Burmese pro-democracy champion Aung San Suu Kyi.
Interior Ministry spokesman Lieutenant General Khieu Sopheak yesterday said that despite Mr. Rainsy’s proximity to Cambodia during the tour, the government would not request his extradition to Cambodia because, as a dual-citizen, he would be traveling on a French passport.
“How can another country send him if he has a French passport?” he said.
Instead, Lt. Gen. Sopheak said, the government would “just wait” for Mr. Rainsy to return of his own volition. “The door of Prey Sar [prison] is open for him now. He can come whenever he wants,” he said.