Solidarity Statement: Global unions condemn conviction of union leaders

15 December 2018 17:33


On 11 December 2018 Phnom Penh Municipal Court of Cambodia convicted six prominent independent trade union leaders of instigating intentional acts of violence with aggravating circumstances, stemmed from the protest along Veng Sreng Boulevard in late 2013, when garment and footwear workers demanded an increase in the minimum wage to $160 USD per month.

In response, the Asia Pacific Regional Offices of UNI Global Union (UNI), Building and Wood Workers’ International (BWI), International Domestic Workers’ Federation (IDWF), Public Services International (PSI), IndustriALL, and International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers Associations (IUF) - strongly condemn the sentence against the six union leaders and call for the convictions to be immediately voided.

Despite the absence of evidence that the accused union leaders had instigated any of the acts with which they were charged, the court convicted them. None of the actual perpetrators of violence or damage were brought to the hearing nor were they named. Although the sentence does not require a prison term, they face imprisonment for these charges if they commit any other felony or misdemeanor within the next five years – a period of time that coincides with the next national elections in 2023. As the criminal charges stem from independent trade union activities, the Global Unions are deeply concerned that these suspended sentences will be used to imprison the six trade union leaders should they engage in any protest action over the next five years.

The six Global Unions view these convictions as another example of repression against independent trade unions in Cambodia, and a signal that freedom of association and independent trade unionism in Cambodia remains under direct threat.

The Global Unions strongly urge for the reopening of civil society space in order to allow genuine freedom of association in Cambodia to ensure that independent trade unions can freely operate in the interests of workers. They also call for the convictions against the six trade union leaders to be immediately voided. Finally, the Global Unions, condemn in the strongest terms, the ongoing persecution of other trade union leaders and activists.

Read the full statement here