GMAC Defends Use of Force Against Striking Workers

A senior member of the Garment Manufacturer’s Association in Cambodia (GMAC) on Sunday endorsed the use of deadly force by military police against striking garment workers, which left five dead and more than 20 with gunshot wounds. … “GMAC condemns the use of violence, period,” he said. “However, I think that the police had to respond to break up the rioters, and the rioters were not responding to verbal warnings.” Mr. Loo said the military police were in the right to open fire on the protesters. “Yes, absolutely,” he said. “After they [the protesters] were throwing rocks and stones and stuff, how do you expect them to respond?” … Union leaders are too scared to meet, and many garment workers have fled the city for their homes in the provinces [National Independent Federation Textile Union of Cambodia vice president] Ms. [Chheng] Lang said, adding that Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Confederation of Unions, is also in hiding after receiving a summons for questioning from the Phnom Penh Municipal Court. … “We wanted negotiations with the Ministry of Labor, employers and GMAC to discuss about raising the minimum wage, but they have not yet informed us when the next meeting would be,” he [Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Union vice president Kong Athit] said. Prak Chanthoeun, who heads the Labor Ministry’s general department of labor conflict, said the ministry had sent the six unions an invitation to meet on Wednesday where they will be told to stop their strike or face legal action. “We have scheduled a meeting with those union leaders to tell them to not create problems that can cause chaos at the factories,” he said. … “Damage was done for sure but I don’t think it’s irredeemable,” he [Ken Loo] said. Rather than hurting the industry, Mr. Loo said the strong state response to the protesting garment workers would reassure investors and keep them from pulling out. “The authorities cracked down on the protesters—that’s a step in the right direction,” Mr. Loo said.

Aun Pheap and Zsombor Peter