Human rights violations in the Cambodian garment sector: Calling on the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights to address the situation

Concerned by the violent government crackdown on striking workers and the ongoing violations of workers’ rights in the garment sector, FIDH and its member organisations in Cambodia, the Cambodian Human Rights Development Association (ADHOC) and the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO), submitted a communication to the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights (UNWG). The communication calls on the UNWG to provide clarification and guidance on the application of UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights in this particular situation, and to make clear recommendations to each actor involved in light of their respective obligations and responsibilities.

In late December 2013, tens of thousands of Cambodian garment workers began protests and strikes in Phnom Penh and several other provinces, demanding a monthly minimum wage increase from US$80 to US$160. The Labour Ministry estimated that a living wage in Cambodia ranged from 157 to 177US$ per month, while unions estimated it at 283US$. Garment workers’ protests were violently repressed and took a deadly turn on 3 January 2014, when the police fired live ammunition strikers, killing 4 people and seriously injuring 38. On 2 January 2014, 23 people were arrested and held incommunicado for several days.

These brutal crackdowns are a stark reminder of the enduring human rights and labour rights violations in the garment sector in Cambodia. Inadequate wages, violations of trade union rights and unsafe working conditions are among the human rights violations prevailing in Cambodia’s largest export industry.

FIDH, ADHOC and LICADHO call on the UNWG to undertake a country visit to Cambodia and to formulate recommendations addressing the role of the Cambodian government, home states of global brands sourcing in Cambodia, Cambodian manufacturers and global brands sourcing in Cambodia.

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