Rising Consumer Prices Draw Hundreds to Protest for Action

Some 200 factory workers and taxi drivers protested in Phnom Penh yesterday morning to de­mand that the government take action to curb the rising costs of food and fuel, and threatened larger demonstrations if it failed to act.

Phan Toy, a 28-year-old employee of Meanchey district’s Nugget Textile factory, was among those who gathered for the half-hour protest at Phnom Penh’s Freedom Park, the city’s designated site for public demonstrations just north of Canadia Tower.

“We expect the government to find a solution for us because we are having a hard time living,” she said. “We cannot accept the inflation these days because our salaries cannot cover our daily expenses.”

According to figures released by the National Institute of Statistics last month, the year-on-year inflation rate for May rose to 6.5 percent, its highest level in 14 months. May also marked the largest month-to-month increase in nearly two years.

The brief protest was organized by the Cambodian National Con­federation for Laborers Protec­tion. CNCLP President Sath Chhean­g­­hour said workers were suffering due to the rising prices and suggested the government bring prices down with a cut to the gasoline tax, for example.

“We have just started to hold the protests,” he said. “If there is no response from the government…we will cooperate with national and in­ternational NGOs to hold a huge non-violent demonstration.”

The World Bank, International Monetary Fund and Asian De­velopment Bank in March all warned that rising commodity prices and rising inflation in Asia risked spilling over into Cambodia and drawing more people into the ranks of the poor.

By June, the Finance Ministry said it would use “all means” to hold annual inflation at 5 percent but offered few details. As a heavily dollarized economy, however, Cambodia has few means at its disposal to curb inflation besides stemming public spending.

In the past, Prime Minister Hun Sen has also called on oil companies to lower their prices and banned the export of some livestock in order to boost local supply.



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