Committees to ‘Research’ Minimum Wages, ‘Study’ Killings

Prime Minister Hun Sen on Friday assigned former Finance Minister Keat Chhon as the head of a newly formed committee tasked with researching the government’s capacity to introduce wage increases for civil servants and factory workers.

In a statement released by the Council of Ministers’ Press and Quick Reaction Unit, Mr. Hun Sen said that he wants Mr. Chhon to “discuss with related institutions and parties over the possibility for raising salaries and reforming the salary system for civil servants.”

On January 3, military police shot dead five and wounded more than 40 protesting garment factory workers during clashes on Veng Sreng Street after a week of mass demonstrations to demand a monthly minimum wage of $160.

The statement said that Mr. Hun Sen also spoke about two other new committees: One to “study” what happened in Pur Senchey district’s Veng Sreng Street, where the five workers were killed, and the other to look into damage caused by “anarchic demonstrations.”

Both committees are to be headed by Interior Minister Sar Kheng.

Mr. Hun Sen’s establishment of the committee to study wages comes after a group that represents the rights of public-sector workers called on Thursday for civil servants around the country to go on strike and demand a minimum wage of $250, as well as assurances that that would be doubled to $500 in years to come.

Teachers also undertook sporadic strike action in schools around the country last week to demand a rise in their salaries.

The Council of Ministers also on Friday held talks on the possibility of introducing a ban on smoking in public spaces such as restaurants and bars, but a draft sub-decree on the matter was sent back to the Ministry of Health, which compiled it, for further review.

Regarding smoking, changes must be “characteristic in terms of education, rather than offering punishment or fines,” the statement says. The council also approved a 10-year draft national strategic plan on rural water supplies and sanitation, as well as a draft sub-decree on a code of ethics for pharmacists.

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