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Cambodia: Mass Firing at Garment Factory Could Spur New Protests

Hundreds of garment workers at a factory in Phnom Penh, Cambodia had been striking over financial benefits last week, and factory owners temporarily quieted the crowd this week by firing more than 100 of those workers. But the quiet won’t sustain as the workers—whose demands remain unmet—will meet with union leaders to discuss potentially launching a new round of protests over the company’s decision to fire them.

According to Cambodia Daily, workers at the Taiwanese-owed Xin Fang factory in the capital’s Pur Senchey district had been demanding a lunch allowance and a $15 monthly stipend, and were fired this week after resuming protests regarding the sought benefits Monday.

A Cambodia court issued the Coalition of Cambodia Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union (CCAWDU) an injunction last Tuesday, ordering the laborers to return to work by Thursday. Roughly 300 of the workers did as told, but the remaining 100 continued on through Friday, resuming the protests this Monday.

Ney Bunthoeun, a CCAWDU representative at the factory, said the court injunction only ordered the workers to return to work, but did not ban them from restarting the strike. “We will discuss protesting the company’s decision [to fire the workers] with union officials,” she added.

Workers from Taiwanese-owned Juhui Footwear factory in the Kompong Cham province have also been on strike, but to demand overtime pay and other benefits. The court issued an injunction to cease this protest too, and workers returned to their stations after factory managers reportedly told them they either had to align with factory management or their unions. A union representative at the factory said the workers would heed the injunction but that protests would resume if workers’ requests are still not met.

Unrest among garment workers has been continuous in Cambodia in the last year as more discontent laborers see fit to voice their displeasure over working conditions and wages.

Last month, roughly 3,000 workers at Chinese-owned Jiun Ye garment factory went on strike after management failed to distribute monthly bonuses with their regular pay. Workers hit the streets in protest, blocking a major roadway more than once, and reportedly smashing the windows of a guardhouse.

The Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC), fed up with the ongoing strike, implored the government to “punish the perpetrators” and maintain order so as not to spook investors.