Cambodian labour activist arrested

Labour rights article written on the 10 Jan 2011

Photo: istock

There is increasing concern for the human rights of Cambodian labour activists following the November arrest of Phnom Penh based union leader, Sous Chantha.

26-year-old Sous Chantha has worked at the United Apparel Garment factory since 2006 and has been an organiser there since 2008 representing approximately 1000 workers. On 18 November — only days after his union became affiliated with the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Unions (CCAWDU) — Sous Chantha was arrested on charges for drug trafficking. If convicted, he faces between 2 to 5 years in jail.

According to the Cambodia League for the Protection and Defence of Human Rights (LICADHO) there is insufficient legal basis for his detention. The LICADHO case study (see link below) shows contradictory reports from the police regarding his arrest. The human rights organisation suspects that Sous Chantha’s arrest was a retaliation against his recent affiliation with CCAWDU, set up to obstruct his union activities. Human rights activists and labour organisations are calling for his immediate release.

Meanwhile, unfair dismissals continue to affect hundreds of union officials. After the CCAWDU organised nation-wide strikes for improved wages in September 2010, factories responded with mass dismissals of union members. Alongside the sackings, dozens of legal cases were filed against union leaders. As of December, 379 dismissed workers from 18 companies still haven’t been reinstated. According to the Clean Clothes Campaign many of these workers are now struggling to feed their families and could face eviction from their homes.

You can support the human rights of Cambodian worker by taking action through the Clean Clothes Campaign website. Ask Cambodian authorities for the immediate release of Sous Chantha and call upon upon employers and the Garment Manufacturer Association in Cambodia to re-instate all suspended or dismissed workers.

Take Action via the CCC website

Find out more about the campaign for a living wage in Cambodia

Read LICADHO case study

Visit Cambodia League for the Protection and Defence of Human Rights

Main image: the view from inside a Phnom Penh prison (OxfamAUS).