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CCU threatens protests if EP demands not met

Mom Kunthear / Khmer Times Share:
Rong Chhun speaks to media yesterday. KT/Chor Sokunthea

The Cambodian Confederation of Unions yesterday warned that if the government failed to comply with a European Parliament resolution, the government would face massive demonstrations from workers.

CCU president Rong Chhun said in a press conference yesterday that he will personally organise the demonstrations if the government does not heed the EP’s call to improve human rights and drop charges against former CNRP leader Kem Sokha.

“I will lead the demonstrations for the purpose of demanding the government to accept requests made by the EU in order to avoid an economic crisis and for our workers to keep their jobs,” Mr Chhun said, noting that the demonstrations would be held after Pchum Ben day. “Anyone can join me.”

Last week, the European Parliament held a session to push the government to drop all charges against Mr Sokha.

The EP also said that respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, including labour rights, are essential to maintain Cambodia’s EU trade preferences, specifically the Everything-but-arms treaty.

“We urge the Cambodian authorities to drop all remaining politically-motivated charges against activists, and lift the ban on political activity of 118 senior opposition members,” said EU diplomat Federica Mogherini. “Local councillors from the opposition who were elected in June last year should be reinstated.”

Rong Chhun leads a rally at Freedom Park in October 2014. KT/Chor Sokunthea

Mr Chhun said that if the government failed to comply with the request and loses the preferential trade status, workers’ lives would be affected.

“We are concerned that most of our workers will lose their jobs,” he said. “And it will also indirectly affect truck drivers, landlords, food sellers, and so on,” he said.

Mr Chhun said that demonstrators will file a petition to the National Assembly, Council of Ministers and other relevant institutions.

Labour Ministry spokesman Heng Sour said yesterday that the CCU has the right to hold demonstrations.

However, Mr Sour noted that the CCU must also consider what massive demonstrations would do to the image of the country.

“I think that if Rong Chhun wants to lead an EU-related protest, then that’s his right, but he must also think if it will yield a positive result,” he said, noting that there is a distinction between a labour issue and a political issue. “He must think of the whole country.”

Government spokesman Phay Siphan said yesterday that holding the demonstrations could jeopardise national security and that following an order from a foreign country violates Cambodian laws.

“More than 80 percent of Cambodians voted, we garnered more than 70 percent of the votes,” Mr Siphan said. “It shows sovereignty, national unity and independence. Rong Chhun is obliged to respect that.”

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