By Ken Loo
I refer to the article “GMAC Defends Use of Force Against Striking Workers” published on Monday, which did not fairly reflect the views and position of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC).
It starts out by claiming that GMAC “endorsed the use of deadly force by military police against striking workers.” This contradicts a later paragraph in which I was quoted as saying “GMAC condemns the use of violence, period. However, I think that the police had to respond to break up the rioters, and the rioters were not responding to verbal warnings.”
I feel that the quote was taken out of context and that it has misrepresented our position. When asked if I thought that the military police had responded appropriately by firing live rounds, I had replied that firstly, we should be clear to distinguish striking workers and this group of rioters. In this case, the rioters had engaged in violent activities including breaking down of factory gates and doors, intimidating and forcing workers who were working to leave work. They had also destroyed a clinic and were burning up roadside stalls. We also witnessed numerous attempts to try and break into garment factories.
We understand the rioters had ignored many verbal warnings to stop engaging in such violent and illegal actions. Increasingly, the rioters were turning their attention to the military police hurling rocks and stones as well as homemade Molotov cocktails using diesel fuel. At this point, the intervention force had to act quickly to protect the lives and property of workers, investors and the public.
The article goes on to say that GMAC had urged the authorities to take tough measures against the six unions over “small amounts of damage to factory property, as well as the alleged intimidation of workers who did not want to strike.”
GMAC has always called upon the government to enforce the law, on both employers and unions. With regards to the alleged intimidation of workers who did not want to strike, we have sufficient evidence to support this claim including photos and video recordings of the rioters breaking down factory gates, rushing into the production area and intimidating workers, forcing them to leave the place of work.
The situation on December 30 in front of the Canadia Industrial Park had evolved into a riot and was heading in the direction of outright anarchy. The violent behavior exhibited by the rioters and the aggression shown toward the intervention forces eventually led to the clash between the rioters and the military police. We are saddened that the clash resulted in the loss of lives as well as injuries on both sides.
GMAC has never supported the use of violence to resolve Industrial disputes. GMAC supports the decision of the government to strictly ensure public order and safety, to protect public and private property and to help restore investor confidence.
Ken Loo, secretary-general, Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia
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