Chea Mony, president of the opposition-aligned Free Trade Union (FTU), said Tuesday that his union, one of the largest in the country, will not be joining other labor groups planning to rally on International Workers’ Day because he has been sick and traveling in the provinces.
However, plans remain in place for others in the labor movement to test an arbitrary ban on public assemblies on May 1 in order to call for workers’ rights to be respected and an increase to the minimum wage.
Mr. Mony—whose unionist brother and predecessor became a martyr for workers in Cambodia when he was assassinated in Phnom Penh in 2004—said the group would instead put out a statement.
“We will not join with other unions on May 1, since we have not met and discussed it with our union representatives in each factory, because I was sick and was traveling to some provinces,” Mr. Mony said.
“On labor day we will only release a statement calling on the government to improve working conditions and respect the rights of workers,” he added.
Mr. Mony said the abstention should not theoretically have any affect on existing plans, “because there are already many unions.”
But some of those under the FTU’s umbrella also said they were disappointed by the announcement. Ean Samnang, an FTU representative from the Wai Full Garment Factory, said he and his colleagues want to join the march, “but we cannot, since we did not receive a call to do so.”
Separately, the government on Tuesday was accused by Human Rights Watch of “sharply limiting registration of unions” in an apparent bid to stifle workers’ rights to “depend on union protection.”
In February, the FTU complained that the Ministry of Labor was refusing to register 10 of its branches. A spokesman for the ministry said the registration of new unions would be banned until the law was passed, but later said the ministry would review each union application before approval.
According the HRW statement, there has been a “dramatic reduction” in the registration of unions since December 2013.
(Additional reporting by Lauren Crothers and Matt Blomberg)