Rainsy Touts Rent Law Plan to Garment Workers

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy toured industrial zones in Phnom Penh on Thursday to tell workers about a new bipartisan plan to draft a law obliging landlords to keep their rental rates in line with inflation.

With the CNRP playing a central role in igniting garment worker protests that temporarily crippled the sector in late 2013 and early 2014, Mr. Rainsy has since taken credit for a raft of government policies aimed at alleviating the financial burden on the garment factory workforce.

The proposed rent control law is meant to protect workers from having their rents raised every time there is a salary increase—a common practice among landlords that occurred again last month when the minimum wage in the garment industry was raised from $100 to $128.

Visiting apartment blocks in factory-filled neighborhoods in Pur Senchey district, Mr. Rainsy told workers that the new law—first announced by Prime Minister Hun Sen in a speech on Tuesday—would bring an end to constant rent hikes.

“Whenever we get a little raise, the landlords always raise the rental fee. Thus, we will prevent such rental fee increases, so then workers can have some money left,” Mr. Rainsy said in a video posted to his Facebook page.

In the video, a garment worker tells the opposition leader that her rent has gone from $40 to $50 since the wage hike, and says that after four years working in the garment sector, she has no savings.

Mr. Rainsy said that the opposition party was also pushing the government to accelerate its plan to gradually raise the monthly minimum wage over the next four years.

“The government has promised that the [minimum] salary will be $160 by 2018. But I believe that it’s not necessary to wait until 2018, it should be increased to $160 this year or next year,” he said.

In December 2013, the CNRP joined union leaders in rallying workers to join mass demonstrations demanding a $160 minimum wage, a campaign that came to a bloody end when military police shot into a crowd of protesters on January 3 last year, killing five and injuring dozens more.

Contacted by telephone on Friday, Mr. Rainsy said the process of drafting the new rent control law had already begun with the creation of an ad hoc committee of four lawmakers each from the ruling and opposition parties.

Mr. Rainsy said Pen Penha, the CPP lawmaker who chairs the parliamentary commission on legislation, and Ke Sovannaroth, the CNRP lawmaker who chairs the commission on social affairs, would lead the drafting process.

“We want to go fast because this is an urgent matter, so now we are seeking advice from experts and we want to meet with representative of workers, the tenants, and representative of the landlords,” he said.

“I think it is a matter of months. A few months, it should be done.”

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