Cambodian garment workers return to work after deadly clashes

Cambodian garment workers return to work after deadly clashes

Tens of thousands of garment workers have returned to work in Cambodia, ending a two-week pay dispute after authorities used deadly force to quell a strike and thwart a protest by their political allies seeking a re-run of a July election.

A union and the country’s garment factory association estimated that between 65 and 70 percent of workers had returned to factories as of Tuesday.

About 350,000 had gone on strike, threatening to cripple the country’s main export industry, with more than $5 billion in revenue a year coming in from big international brands such as Adidas, Gap and H&M Hennes & Mauritz.

The opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) says the general election in July was stolen by the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) of longtime premier Hun Sen and it wants a re-run.

The CNRP had promised at election time to double the minimum wage in clothing factories to $160 a month. The government offered first $95, then increased that to $100, which would be a 25 percent rise. The unions rejected that.

Last Friday, military police opened fire on workers protesting outside a factory in the capital, Phnom Penh, and four people were killed.

“We believe that victory will not be long in coming. We will win and we demand another election,” he told a news conference on Tuesday, promising to resume the protests at an unspecified date.