Subedi Talks Migrant Workers, Wages, Union Law

During the first full day of his 11th mission to the country, U.N. human rights envoy Surya Subedi met with Labor Minister Ith Sam Heng to discuss the pressing issues facing Cambodia’s labor force.

According to Labor Ministry spokesman Heng Suor, Mr. Subedi brought four points to the table during the meeting.

“They talked about Cambodian workers being sent back from Thailand,” he said. “Mr. Subedi also wanted to know the progress of the draft union law, because it seems to affect the freedom of the unions.

“He wanted to know about the minimum wage and also wanted to discuss reports he had received about people who joined strikes and union leaders arrested in January not being able to return to work,” Mr. Suor said.

In response, Mr. Sam Heng—who went to Poipet over the weekend to assess the situation of migrant workers—told Mr. Subedi that the authorities are confronting the issue of returning migrant workers on two fronts: through diplomatic channels with Thailand and by providing immediate care on the ground.

Regarding the draft Trade Union Law, which the U.N.’s labor body has said would be a step backward for workers rights in the country in its current form, Mr. Sam Heng reportedly said it was too early to talk about it.

A new process for setting the minimum wage in the garment sector was discussed during a meeting at the Labor Ministry on Monday, Mr. Sam Heng noted during the meeting. The minister also told Mr. Subedi that the ministry would ensure factories were complying with the Labor Law in their hiring and firing of workers, according to Mr. Suor.

Mr. Subedi on Monday also assured homeless villagers from the Borei Keila community, who had gathered outside the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), that he had not forgotten about their calls for resolution in their land dispute.

“I will do again what I can to address the problem that you are facing at the moment,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Lauren Crothers and Khuon Narim)

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