Friday, January 10, 2014

Solidarity with Workers of Cambodia!

 CAMBODIA'S embassy in London was one of a number around the world that saw protests today in solidarity with striking garment workers.

 On January 3, 2014, the Cambodian government sent military police to attack a demonstration of striking garment workers.  The police opened fire with AK-47 rifles killing five workers and injuring dozens more.

The government has since banned all demonstrations and used military force to clear the streets. At least 39 workers have been detained and are held in unknown locations. Faced with this brutal repression, the unions have called off the strike and workers are returning to work, although they are continuing to press their demands for an increased minimum wage.

The Cambodian garment workers’ strike began on 24 December, following a government announcement that the minimum wage would only rise by £9 to £60 a month, far short of workers’ demands for a living wage of £100 ($160) a month.

The garment industry in Cambodia employs 700,000 people, 90% of whom are women, producing clothes for a huge range of UK high street companies, including H&M, Gap, Marks and Spencer, Tesco and Levis, who profit from the workers’ low pay. 

On January 2 police blocked the route of a workers’ march, then attacked workers, union organisers and bystanders. The following day armed forces fired live ammunition at workers, killing at least four people and injuring many more. 23 people, including a 17 year old, have been arrested, many of whom were severely beaten prior to arrest. Recent reports suggest they are being held in a notorious detention centre some distance from Phnom Penh.

Today's demonstration in London, called at short notice to coincide with worldwide demonstrations at the behest of the Cambodian unions, was supported by War on Want, Labour Behind the Label, and other organisations, including Brent Trades Union Council, whose area includes the embassy. A small delegation was able to enter the embassy and present their demands to the diplomats, who promised to relay them to their government in Phnom Penh. 

See statement from War on Want with more pictures:


Whenever we hear about workers killed, whether it's in a fire or factory collapse in Bangla Desh, or by the military in Cambodia, the same familiar names come up. Firms that are well-known names on evry high street or shopping mall in the West, but make their profits by selling goods made by super-exploited workers in Asian sweatshops.

Campaigners in the West have written to some of these firms that are known to source goods in Cambodia, asking them to condemn the killing of workers. So far without success.

Meanwhile a comrade campaigning in South Korea has told us that his own government urged the Cambodian authorities to get tough with strikers.

He also sent us this piece of information:

American Private Equity Fund Carlyle is behind Yakjin Cambodia INC Who Invited Army to Tame Striking Workers.

The mother firm of the Korean garment firm Yakjin Cambodia INC who called for Army intervention in workers' strike in Cambodia over the last weekend is in fact owned by Carlyle, an American private equity fund giant. Carlyle bought Yakjin Trading Co just before the Christmas in 2013 by establishing a holding company named Yakjin Holdings

. It is reported that about 70% share of Yakjin Holdings is owned by Carlyle. Carlyle is known not only for its size and a wide range of investment across the globe but also for its celebrity board members such as George W Bush Senior, former British PM John Major, Shafiq bin Laden in the past. A week after buying out of Yakjin Trading Co, its Cambodian subsidiary called for Army intervention that killed 4 workers and severely injured many. It is known that Carlyle manages many US state pension funds as well. Need more investigation for global campaign!
Carlyle is known to us as the group which bought up the former Ministry of Defence research wing QinetiQ, with the involvment of former joint intelligence chair Dame Pauline Neville Jones, known inter alia for her Balkan activities and work for Nat West Markets alongside her former boss Lord Hurd.

We must thank the comrade in Korea for bringing this to our notice. And resolve to strengthen links with workers and activists in Korea, Cambodia, the US and everywhere else who face the common enemy.

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