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In Cambodia Police use water cannon to break up textiles strike

Cambodia agreed in October to raise the minimum wage in the $5 billion sector to $140 per month from next year, far short of the sum sought by unions which had threatened to hold strikes if demands were not met.

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Cambodia police use water cannon to break up textiles strike play

Cambodia police use water cannon to break up textiles strike

(khmerization)

Police in Cambodia made dozens of arrests and used water cannon to break up a strike on Monday by garment workers protesting over low pay, in the latest flare-up in a manufacturing sector vital to its fledgling economy.

Thousands of workers at two factories have halted work since Dec. 16 at several industrial zones to demand $8 on top of a new minimum wage of $140 a month. The strike spread at the weekend after four people were arrested for throwing stones.

"Workers were water hosed as they walked to factories," said Nouth Bopinnaroath, a human rights worker at the group Licadho, who witnessed the break-up.

He said about 30 men and women had been detained.

"The male workers have their hands tied up," he said.

Cambodia agreed in October to raise the minimum wage in the $5 billion sector to $140 per month from next year, far short of the sum sought by unions which had threatened to hold strikes if demands were not met.

Kem Chamroeun, a leader of the Union of Movement of Workers, described the strikes as wildcat and said unions had nothing to do with them. He said arrests would escalate the situation.

"Workers will just continue to strike," he said. "They won't accept this minimum wage and no one talked to them."

Competition is heating up in Asia in garment manufacturing, which to Cambodia is worth 600,000 jobs that sustain rural families through orders from the likes of Gap, H&M , Adidas, Marks and Spencer and Walmart.

Strikes by increasingly assertive and politicized unions have left the government with a hard task of both satisfying wage needs and keeping Cambodia competitive.

Neighbouring Vietnam is seeing record investment in its footwear and textiles, owing to new free-trade pacts with major markets, including the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Vietnam is the second-largest garment supplier behind China to the United States, Cambodia's biggest market.

Heng Sour, a Cambodian Labor Ministry spokesman, said the unrest was not a strike, but a riot.

"Some individuals posing as workers have destroyed private property and caused chaos among investors," he said, adding that the ministry supported the action taken by authorities".

The Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia, sent a letter to Prime Minister Hun Sen last week urging immediate action to restore order as strikes "severely affect investors' sentiment and their long-term investment vision".

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