Ministry of Social Affairs, Labor and Veteran Affairs officials on Tuesday declined to comment on allegations made by a US labor union that Cambodian workers’ rights are being violated, while a US Embassy official said they are “looking” into the complaint.
The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations filed a complaint June 15 with the US Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky, calling for the US to revoke a special trade privilege from Cambodia because the government has allegedly undermined independent unions.
It also accused the Social Affairs Ministry of showing bias toward CPP-linked unions, and cited examples of interference with independent or opposition-affiliated unions during collective bargaining with factory owners.
Social Affairs Minister Suy Sem was unavailable for comment Tuesday. Officials in the Ministry’s labor inspection department and Ministry Cabinet members also declined to comment.
A US Embassy representative said officials were looking at documents received from Washington, but did not elaborate.
For Cambodian-American businessman Ted Ngoy, who lobbied for Cambodia to get Generalized System of Preferences status, the news came as a personal blow: “I worked too hard to get this status granted for the Cambodian people. I spent one year, hundreds of thousands of dollars to lobby for GSP. I feel hurt.”
He pleaded for the US government to give Cambodia more time to solve its labor problems. GSP gives 6,200 products duty-free status and is reviewed yearly by Washington. The trade status was awarded to Cambodia in 1997.