Laborers March at Angkor Over Conditions

Hundreds of construction work­ers from Cambodia and abroad marched around Bayon temple in the Angkor Wat complex Thursday morning, in a bid to draw attention to the plight of poor Cambodian laborers.

The march was part of a Siem Reap workshop on social dialogue organized by the Cam­bodian Construction Trade Union Federation and the Geneva-based International Federation of Builders and Wood Workers.

The event was attended by about 400 workers, nearly 100 of whom came from 20 other countries in the Asia-Pacific region and Europe, said Rath Mony, president of the Cambodian federation. The three-day workshop wraps up today.

“This solidarity march is not a protest, but is meant to show the public the poor conditions in which construction laborers work, especially at Angkor Wat,” Rath Mony said.

By marching around Bayon temple, the group hoped to attract interest from the multitudes of foreign tourists who visit the Angkor Wat complex every day.

Cambodian construction workers generally labor in very dangerous conditions, and employers rarely provide safety equipment, Rath Mony said.

“Labor rights for construction workers have been completely marginalized while everyone focuses on the garment factories,” he said, adding that most construction workers generally make about $40 per month.

Pang Kun, a construction worker for the restoration project at Bapuon temple, attended the march Thursday because, he said, “I want to see the abuse of construction workers stop.”

“We need to see change,” he explained. “And the workers need better wages.”

Rath Mony said there are 10,000 construction workers in Siem Reap alone, most of them employed by temple restoration projects or by one of the many new hotels emerging in the tourism-rich city. Some 4,000 of those laborers belong to the Cambodian Construction Trade Union Federation.

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