PHNOM PENH Jan 10 Tens of thousands of garment
workers have returned to work in Cambodia since a strike for
higher pay was put down with deadly force by the authorities
last week but employers are now piling up lawsuits against trade
unions over the two-week dispute.
The garment makers' association said most workers had
returned to work around the country by Friday although only
about 60 percent had shown up at the Canadia Industrial Park in
the capital, Phnom Penh, where military police opened fire on
Jan. 3, killing three strikers according to the government.
The park is home to factories that make clothes for Western
brands such as Adidas AG, H&M Hennes & Mauritz AB
and Puma SE.
"The lawsuits will focus on incitement to strike, damage to
property and assets, coercion and threatening workers who want
to work," Ken Loo, secretary-general of the Garment
Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC), told Reuters.
Khieu Sambo, an attorney representing firms against the six
unions involved in the strike, told Reuters that more than 150
factories had filed lawsuits and more were being prepared.
Chea Mony, president of the Free Trade Union, one of those
targeted, said the judiciary was politicised but he would still
fight the charges in court.
"They sued us because they want to intimidate us so we won't
strike any more and we won't help the workers," he said. "We are
The U.N. human rights agency said this week five people were
killed and 20 wounded by gunfire and beatings when military
police opened fire on the workers, who were demanding a rise in
minimum pay to $160 per month from $100.
The workers, allied with an anti-government protest
movement, were among 350,000 who had gone on strike since Dec.
24, threatening to cripple the country's main export industry,
which earns more than $5 billion in revenue a year.
The opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) had
been protesting against what it called the fraudulent election
victory in July won by long-serving Prime Minister Hun Sen. It
wants the vote to be re-run.
The strike ended after the police crackdown, while the CNRP
called off its protest the next day after the authorities
dismantled its protest camp in a Phnom Penh park.
The CNRP had promised to double the minimum wage in the
garment sector to $160 a month if it won power.
The government had offered first $95, then $100, a rise of
25 percent. The unions rejected that but GMAC's Ken Loo said a
minimum wage of $100 would come into force on Feb. 1.
(Reporting by Prak Chan Thul; Editing by Alan Raybould and