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Cambodia: Garment Factory Workers Protest at Embassy in South Korea

Nearly 600 employees from a South Korean-owned garment factory protested in front of the country’s Phnom Penh embassy this Monday, calling on Seoul to intervene in their dispute with factory management.

According to The Cambodia Daily, the protestors rallied among 1,200 Cambo Kotop garment factory workers in Phnom Penh’s Pur Senchey district, who have been rallying since Dec. 16 to strike against the firing of five union representatives and insist on their reinstatement.

The union behind the protest, the Collective Union of Movement of Workers (CUMW), said the five representatives were dismissed because they were planning to lead a strike at the factory, which employs a total of 2,500 people.

“The striking workers, who are refusing to return to work despite a December 23 court injunction ordering them to do so, first gathered outside the Labor Ministry at about 8 a.m. Monday before traveling to the South Korean Embassy. Once they arrived, dozens of police and Daun Penh district security guards prevented them from approaching the entrance,” The Cambodia Daily reported.

Workers moved on to the National Assembly at 11 a.m. once no embassy officials came out to receive their petition. Upon arrival, opposition lawmakers Chan Cheng and Chea Poch met with eight worker representatives.

Chheng Chhorn, CUMW secretary-general and leader of the protest, said that the union could not accept how the factory dismissed its representatives. “At previous meetings, the company did not take the workers back because they claimed that they caused problems that made factory lose profit,” he said.

Deputy secretary-general of the Labor Ministry’s labor conflict department, Vong Sovann, explained that authorities asked the factory to reinstate the union representatives but refused to do so. He said, “Both sides are in the wrong because the factory suspended the workers without permission from the ministry and the workers joined the strike without informing the authorities.”