Printing Shops’ Refusal to Print Strike Leaflets Delays Unions

A coalition of labor unions will today begin distributing leaflets calling on supporters to attend a nationwide strike in March, two days after the planned distribution date due to the fact the majority of printing houses in the city refused to print the flyers.

Union representatives said Wednesday that since Monday they had been turned away from a number of printing houses, which they believe were afraid to print material that would be seen by the government as inciting people to break the current ban on public gatherings.

“Maybe the government has called for something, I don’t know but the printing houses are scared [to print the leaflet],” said Ath Thorn, president of the Cambodian Labor Federation.

They have now found one printing house that has agreed to take their business.

The leaflet lists the unions’ seven demands and calls on workers to go on strike from March 12 through 15 should those demands not be met.

The demands include the release of the 21 protesters still imprisoned following labor strikes on Veng Sreng Street on January 2 and 3; a $160 minimum wage for garment workers; the prosecution of state forces who killed five protesting strikers on January 3; and an end to the government’s ban on public gatherings, among other things.

The document also calls for all workers to refuse to work overtime from February 24 to 28 and to attend a public forum at Freedom Park on March 8, to which Interior Minister Sar Kheng, Labor Minister Ith Sam Heng and Deputy Prime Minister Keat Chhon will be invited to answer questions about the labor sector.

Chheng La, vice president of the Independent Democratic Youth Trade Union, one of 18 signatories to the document, said 50,000 copies of the leaflet had been printed and that 50,000 more would be printed for distribution today.

“We are slow because the printers were scared, but at least we have found one who will print for us,” she said.

Of five printing houses visited by reporters Wednesday, four refused to print the document.

At TST Printing on Street 271, a manager who declined to be named said: “I do not want to be involved with this. I am worried about the problems it could cause.”

At T.Y., a printing house on Sothearos Boulevard, duty manager Seiha Sopheap made a phone call to his manager to see if he would agree to make 20,000 copies.

“My boss Ly Huot works at the Interior Ministry and he does not permit,” Mr. Sopheap said.

Long Dimanche, spokesman for City Hall, reiterated Wednesday that the distribution of leaflets was illegal as it would violate the government’s ban on public gatherings.

While Mr. Dimanche declined to say whether a directive had been issued to printing houses, he praised their actions.

“We are proud of the printing companies that do not provide the leaflets to [the unions]. They know what is legal and illegal.”

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