Sam Rainsy Supports May Day Labor Rally

Outspoken government Sam Rainsy remains active in the face of public condemnation by the ruling coalition partners, CPP and Funcinpec.

On Sunday, Sam Rainsy met some 200 garment workers representing more than 20 garment factories at his central Phnom Penh residence. He told them he supports a call for a $60 per month minimum wage, up from $40.

Free Trade Union of the Kingdom of Cambodia President Chea Vichea has called for a raise of the legal minimum wage to $70, union associates said Sunday.

Sam Rainsy—who was criticized Thursday on national radio and television by the government—expressed support for workers’ plans to hold a May Day rally May 1.

The rally, which is being organized by the Free Trade Union and other labor organizations, would focus on calling for a raise in the monthly wage and on improving working conditions in factories.

More than 180 garment factories operate in Cambodia, forming the base of a fledgling industrial sector. Virtually all of the factories have opened in the past six years.

Some labor advocates warned that political involvement in the rally or labor movement would jeopardize unions and workers’ efforts and might allow political parties to use unions or workers as tools for their own political interests.

During the three-hour meeting, Sam Rainsy emphasized that his party would be always there to support any workers’ protests if the labor code is violated by factories.

“I support any demonstrations which would help Cambodian people,” Sam Rainsy told them. “We must continue our fights against any violation of workers’ rights. We must combat until positive results come.”

Sam Rainsy noted that the legal minimum wage has not increased for three years and should be up by 30 to 50 percent in order to catch up with the country’s economic situation.

Some labor advocates appreciate the support Sam Rainsy gives them, but are skeptical of his intentions.

Seng Phally, executive director for the Cambodian Labor Or­ganization, noted that if political influences infiltrate in the rally, the organization would not join it. It would rather organize its own workshops on labor rights education, he said.

“If political parties get involved in labor movement, it would not bring any benefits to workers,” Seng Phally said.



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