Garment Association Re-Elects Chairman, Approves Term Limit

The Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC) re-elected Van Sou Ieng as chairman—a position he has held for nearly two decades—at its annual general meeting on Saturday but approved a new two-term limit on the two-year post.

GMAC Secretary-General Ken Loo said the 25-member executive committee was also voted on and saw an additional member added to make sure the association’s European-owned factories were fairly represented. All but six of them were on the committee already.

“The committee is analogous to the board of a company,” Mr. Loo said. “It has all the power to decide the direction of GMAC.”

It has been a tumultuous two years for Cambodia’s $6-billion garment export industry, which contributes about a third of the country’s gross domestic product.

Garment sector strikes and protests for higher wages grew especially widespread and violent in late 2013—effectively shutting the industry down for a few days—and came to an end only when military police shot into a crowd of demonstrators on January 3, 2014, killing at least five people.

The violence and work stoppages took their toll, helping convince some foreign brands to place more of their orders elsewhere. In 2014, Cambodia’s garment exports grew at roughly half the pace of the year before, though the World Bank also blamed stiffer competition from other countries and a rising dollar, to which the government has pegged the riel.

The industry also has to cope with a 28 percent hike in garment workers’ minimum wage that took effect in January, and is at odds with some unions over a Union Law that the government hopes to pass this year.

Mr. Loo said that both the Union Law, as well as another law being drafted to regulate NGOs and associations, were expected to include term limits for leaders, part of the reason GMAC decided on Saturday to put a term limit on its chairman.

“It was in anticipation of the two laws that will take effect, and whichever of the two that [is] imposed on us,” he said.

Mr. Loo said the two-term limit would also bring GMAC in line with international best practices.

He said the limit would not apply, however, if the incumbent—after two terms—runs unopposed for a third term.

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