UN Envoy Meets Employers Over Labor Unrest

U.N. human rights envoy Surya Subedi met with representatives of the country’s businesses and employers Thursday for talks that focused on the protection of workers’ rights and measures that can be taken to ensure that strained industrial relations do not once again erupt into violence.

In an interview prior to the meeting, Mr. Subedi said the discussion would focus “generally around the protection of workers’ rights, how different people and organizations can come together to make a contribution and to make sure we don’t see a repeat of the violent events that have taken place on this issue.”

Sandra D’Amico, vice president of the Cambodian Federation of Employers and Business Associations, who attended the meeting, said employers told Mr. Subedi that they hoped to see a more coordinated union movement and stronger enforcement of the Labor Law.

Ms. D’Amico said the protests on Veng Sreng Street that led to lethal suppression by military police on January 3 were “politically motivated,” but said the conversation with Mr. Subedi touched on “what we think is necessary to ensure there is not a repeat of what happened in the context of January.”

“I don’t think anyone can ensure that things are improved. What needs to be done is we need to manage expectations more carefully,” she said. “We cannot do things in an ad hoc manner as we did in the past.”

The Labor Ministry began talks last month to formalize and reform the garment sector’s minimum-wage setting process, with the Labor Advisory Council agreeing this week to implement annual increases through tripartite negotiations between employers, unions and the government.

Mr. Subedi also said Thursday that the three new judiciary laws, which were meant to increase public trust in the courts, had been undermined by provisions that have been widely criticized for safeguarding the power of the executive.

“The very idea why I recommended that these laws be enacted was to give the judiciary the independence that it deserves, to command the trust and respect of the people.

“But now, the very limit of independence seems to have been undermined by certain provisions in these laws, especially the law on the Supreme Council of Magistracy,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Colin Meyn)

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