07/15/2015, 00.00
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Phnom Penh, hundreds of textile workers protest for better working conditions

At least 500 workers of three companies demand greater benefits in terms of food and transport, plus improved safety in factories. They appeal to government, after the refusal of their requests by senior management. The workers announce new demonstrations if their demands are not met.

Phnom Penh (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Hundreds of workers from three different clothing companies took to the streets yesterday, outside the offices of the Ministry of Labour in Phnom Penh, to demand better working conditions.

At least 500 people demonstrated for several hours in the capital, urging the leaders of the executive to take action to ensure workers better working conditions, as well as benefits in terms of food and transport. The recent demonstrations confirm the rising tensions in the workplace in Cambodia and, in particular, in the manufacturing sector, the protagonist of past incidents and protests.

Employees of two companies owned by the Akeentech company in Phnom Penh and the workers of a factory owned by the Sixplus, in the southern province of Kandal, marched through the streets before reaching the building ministry. They are calling for government intervention after the rejection by the top management to the grant their requests submitted about a week ago.

Speaking to Radio Free Asia (RFA) Sum Rong, president of the Union for the safety of workers, points out that the first strikes began on July 1 last, with a request for assistance for the purchase of food vouchers, transportation and accommodation.

Pav Sina, president of another union (Collective Union of Movement of Workers) adds that the Akeentech employees have been on strike since the first of the month, to receive recognition of nine requests including free transportation to work and better working conditions.

After presenting petitions to the ministry, the workers marched to the Parliament and the offices of the Prime Minister, asking for his intervention in the dispute. The workers announce new demonstrations for the future if their demands are not met.

Cambodia's garment industry, which employs an estimated 700 thousand people and exported .3 billion of apparel and shoes in 2013, was thrust into the spotlight in January 2014 when police and soldiers cracked down on workers protesting for a higher minimum wage, killing at least five people.

The year before, a shoe factory collapsed, killing at least two workers. The garment industry has been one of the key drivers of the Cambodian economy, which the World Bank forecasts will expand 7.5 percent this year, the fastest pace in all of East Asia.

The problem of safety at the workplace is also common in many Asian countries. In April of 2013 there was international uproar following the Rana Plaza tragedy in Bangladesh, a building in which five textile companies were housed. The collapse killed more than a thousand people.

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