Minister Clarifies Statement on Garment Sector

Softening statements that Com­merce Minister Cham Prasidh made last week, when he blamed labor unions for pushing the garment industry to “the brink,” Com­merce Ministry Secretary of State Sok Siphana said Thursday that not all garment buyers are fleeing Cambodia over labor conflict.

“Buyers understand that in an in­­­dustry with 200,000 workers there are going to be disputes. We cannot control these disputes,” Sok Siphana said.

“Some buyers leave but others will come. The way I look at it is that you win some and you lose some,” he said. “The garment in­dus­try is not going to thrive but it is going to survive.”

Last week, Cham Prasidh said that overseas orders were cancel­ed in February because “too many de­monstrations make buyers wor­ry and not come to buy.”

In a letter written Monday, a group of seven garment workers’ unions wrote to Prime Minister Hun Sen taking issue with similar statements by Garment Manu­fac­turers Association President Van Sou Ieng, who said that unions are getting “out of control.”

“Mr Van Sou Ieng forgets to mention that the increase in the tension between garment unions and industry management within the last five months is due to the ac­­tions of a number of bad em­ployers that have closed down with­out paying their obligations ac­cording to the Labor Law,” the unions wrote.

“With the ending of the Multi-Fi­ber Agreement last Jan 1, the in­cen­tive for bad employers to be­have according to the Labor Law has diminished. Bad employers have increased their activities against unions,” they wrote.

Also this week, the International Textile, Garment and Leather Wor­kers Federation asked the Gap, buyer of some 30 percent of Cambodian garments, to help track down the owners of the Sam Han factory who fled to South Kor­ea last month after closing their factory in Phnom Penh.

Accor­ding to Neil Kearney, secretary general of the federation, Gap has said it is working with the government to locate Sam Han’s owners.

who owe 6,500 workers unemployment compensation.

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