Cambodia: UN labour agency urges independent probe in deadly protests

A garment industry worker sews garter to a skirt in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Photo: World Bank/Chhor Sokunthea

28 January 2014 – Amid reports that riot police have been deployed in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh to break up anti-Government protests, the United Nations labour agency today urged everyone to remain calm and reiterated its calls for a probe into police action.

The UN International Labour Organization (ILO) is “deeply disturbed” by the continuing violence in Cambodia, including reports of another crackdown on protesting workers on Sunday, the UN agency said in a statement.

“The ILO urges all parties to refrain from further violence, and to take all steps necessary for the release of the trade union leaders and workers detained for having participated in the strike over the minimum wage,” the Geneva-based agency said.

It also extended its assistance to all parties “to work towards the resolution of this conflict through dialogue.”

Members of the opposition have been boycotting the Cambodian National Assembly since the middle of last year in a reported attempt to oust Prime Minister Hun Sen, whose win in July extended his 28-year rule, alleging vote-rigging and calling for a new election. They have been joined by the garment workers pressing for higher wages, stalling an industry that supports 400,000 jobs and accounts for some $5 billion per year in exports.

The clashes escalated resulted in riot police reportedly killing at least four workers demonstrating on 3 January, and detaining dozens of others.

The ILO has called for the Government to launch an independent inquiry to determine the circumstances of police action and the deaths, assaults and arrests of workers during that strike.

The inquiry should determine responsibilities and punish those responsible where appropriate, as well as outline the steps to prevent the repetition of such acts, the UN agency detailed in today’s statement.

Wrapping up week-long visit to Cambodia earlier this month, Surya P. Subedi, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the country, stressed that the ongoing political and social tensions have a direct impact on the enjoyment of human rights by all Cambodians. He called for flexibility on both sides to reach a political compromise.


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