Disagreeing with the negative image that often plagues Cambodia, the Garment Manufacturers Association plans to invite US and other foreign buyers to Phnom Penh to see the country’s real face, a top official of the business organization said.
It is critical to correct the image of Cambodia that foreign buyers have to help the garment industry survive in the competitive world market, Van Sou Ieng, recently re-elected chairman of the organization, said.
“We would like to change the perception of buyers,” he said. “We will invite buyers from abroad to [show] the other side of Cambodia.”
He did not specify when his association will invite buyers.
In recent years, workers who accuse factories of violating the labor law have turned to protests, while employers have been forced to do damage control.
Foreign buyers, who face pressure from consumers sensitive to labor issues, are now reluctant to deal with manufacturers allegedly abusing workers’ human rights.
Such reactions are a threat to Cambodia, which will be thrown into a tough competition after 2005, when a provision in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade giving Cambodia preferential treatment will end, said Van Sou Ieng, who has led the country’s single largest industry since 1996.
“In order to fight in the world market, we need to show we are treating employees well,” Van Sou Ieng said. “We will show the US that Cambodia is engaged to two factors—social responsibility and human rights compliance.”