Union reps must prove clean criminal records

The government now requires union leaders to prove that they have no criminal record before registering new branches of their organization, according to a statement from the Ministry of Labor, a decision that comes less than a week before planned nationwide strikes in the garment sector. The statement says that union leaders must submit a letter from the Ministry of Justice proving they have no previous criminal convictions before they can register a new union, said Jill Tucker, a technical adviser with the International Labor Organization (ILO), who said she has seen the communique. … Chea Mony, president of the opposition-aligned Free Trade Union, said that his efforts to register new branches of his union this week were once again rebuffed by the government, with Labor Ministry officials now demanding proof of a clean criminal record. … Mr. Mony, whose union has been aligned with Sam Rainsy’s opposition movement since it was founded in the 1990s, was charged in 2005 with defamation and incitement for criticizing a controversial border agreement with Vietnam signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen. Mr. Mony evaded arrest by fleeing to Ireland. In 2006, Mr. Mony was also briefly detained for organizing an unauthorized May Day demonstration. … Ken Loo, secretary-general of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia, said that the decision by the government to enforce that provision in the existing law showed its commitment to reining in a labor movement, which, he claimed, is threatening the stability of the garment sector, which employs more than 500,000 workers and recorded over $5 billion in exports last year. …

Khy Sovuthy and Colin Meyn