The Asia-Pacific Regional Organisations of three Global Union Federations – BWI, IUF and PSI, representing 378 affiliated trade union organisations with around 15 million combined members across the Asia-Pacific region, including affiliates in Cambodia – condemn in the highest possible terms the recent decision of the Supreme Court of Cambodia to dissolve the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP). This is the most recent political stunt of the Hun Sen Government to crackdown on dissidents.
As guardians of free and democratic institutions and basic human and trade union rights, we deplore the decision of the Supreme Court to dissolve the major opposition party, the CNRP, and the banning of 118 CNRP senior officials from politics for five years. We believe this decision is a serious backwards step for democracy and transparency in Cambodia, severely restricting democratic space and the ability of Cambodian citizens to exercise their fundamental human rights.
These actions are part of an alarming trend towards increasing autocracy in Cambodia. Other recent events include the passage of amendments to the Law on Political Parties that made the Supreme Court’s decisions possible, the arrest of CNRP leader Kem Sokha and the closure of three civil society organisations. The assault on the media has resulted in the closure of 17 news media outlets, notably include the Cambodia Daily, one of Cambodia’s last independent newspapers.
The ongoing repression of Government critics in Cambodia is nothing new. In 2016 the Government’s most ardent critic, Kem Lay, was shot dead in broad daylight in central Phnom Penh. The Cambodian trade union movement vividly remembers the crackdown on the General Strike in 2014 that left six workers dead in Vang Sreng, and the killing of union leader Chea Vichea in 2004. The targeting and jailing of human rights defenders that have called to attention the greed of its ruling class – for labour exploitation, corruption, environmental destruction or the grabbing of natural resources – remains a travesty.
The restriction of space for legitimate trade union organising has severely curtailed economic development for Cambodia’s working class. The Trade Union Law 2016 aimed to hand greater control over the growing movement to the Government and Cambodia’s ruling elite. We are deeply concerned that the crackdown on civil society organisations will also affect the ability of the Cambodia trade union movement to defend workers’ rights.
It is clear that these actions were taken because the Cambodia Peoples’ Party’s grip on power is slipping, as Cambodian civil society speaks out in demand of greater freedoms. These freedoms do not lie within the one-party state model that Cambodia is edging towards.
We call on the international trade union movement to similarly condemn the attacks on democracy that have taken place in Cambodia, to denounce the Hun Sen Government, and demand the restoration of democratic institutions in Cambodia.
Building and Wood Workers International (BWI)
- Asia Pacific
International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers' Associations (IUF) - Asia Pacific
Public Services International (PSI) – Asia Pacific