South Korean Embassy Asks Gov’t to End Strike

The South Korean Embassy has called on the Labor Ministry to end a strike at a South Korean-owned garment factory in Phnom Penh, where workers are demanding regular raises and better benefits.

Labor Ministry spokesman Heng Suor confirmed Sunday that South Korean Ambassador Kim Han-soo met with Labor Minister Ith Sam Heng on Wednesday to ask for help in ending what the ambassador called an “illegal” strike at the Cambo Handsome factory.

“It is about the illegal strike in the factory,” Mr. Suor said of the meeting, which he did not attend. “The ambassador complained that the workers at the factory continue to do illegal strike and they [the embassy] asked for intervention.

“They want the ministry to comply with the law…to order them to go back to work,” he said.

Mr. Suor said the ministry referred the case to the Arbitration Council in response, but did not know what measures the council took from there. Officials with the council could not be reached for comment.

Staff at the embassy refused to provide contact information for embassy officials authorized to speak with the media. Officials at the factory could not be reached for comment.

In January, the South Korean Embassy denied news reports that it had called on the Cambodian military to “crack down” on garment worker protests threatening South Korean factories, days before military police shot into crowds of protesters at a Phnom Penh factory, killing at least five and wounding dozens. The embassy said it had asked the government to protect South Korean businesses but denied suggesting the use of violence or military action.

About 2,000 workers at the Cambo Handsome factory have been on strike since May 22 demanding a more lucrative incentive scheme, higher food and transportation allowances and a five percent raise for workers every six to 12 months.

Loy Lun, president of the Khmer Union Federation, said he still hoped to negotiate a settlement with the factory and had not yet decided whether to call an end to the strike at the factory, which resumes work on Tuesday.

A Labor Ministry briefing paper handed out to reporters immediately after Wednesday’s meeting threatened unspecified legal action against the union’s leaders if they did not settle the dispute “as soon as possible.”

(Additional reporting by Mech Dara)

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