Trade unions and NGOs rallied outside Cambodian Embassies around the world on 10 February demanding the release of Cambodian garment workers detained since the beginning of January. The campaign is set to escalate as they were not freed at the court hearing on 11 February.
In a show of global solidarity, demonstrations took place in Brussels, Canberra, Dhaka, Geneva, Honduras, Hong Kong, Jakarta, Manila, Seoul, Sri Lanka, Tokyo and Washington D.C.
It follows a call by IndustriALL Global Union, UNI Global Union and the ITUC to show international support for 23 people arrested in the capital Phnom Penh during demonstrations by garment workers fighting for a fair and living wage.
In the past few days, two workers have been released. Of the remaining 21 detainees, 16 began a hunger strike on Sunday.
In Geneva, representatives from IndustriALL, UNI and the ITUC held constructive dialogue in a meeting at the United Nations with a senior diplomat from the Cambodian Embassy in Switzerland.
At the same time members of IndustriALL and UNI were vociferous in their demands when delivering a letter to the Cambodian mission in the city calling for the release of the workers and a fair and inclusive process to determine the minimum wage.
“The message to the Cambodian authorities is clear. We will not stop until all the workers are released,” said Jyrki Raina, IndustriALL’s General Secretary, “The action by the global union movement today has proven that the plight of Cambodian garment workers is supported the world over.”
UNI Global Union General Secretary Philip Jennings said:
"The Cambodian government must free all of the “23” immediately and the workers should be allowed to exercise their democratic right to protest against unacceptable work conditions and for a decent wage. Cambodia must begin the race to the top now because today the workers of the world have spoken."
Australian trade unionists kicked off the global day of solidarity with an action at the Cambodian embassy in Canberra. Then Australians spent the rest of the day posting messages of support for the garment workers on the Facebook page of Cambodian Prime Minister Samdech Hun Sen.
In Seoul, members of the Korean Metal Workers’ Union, KCTU, and five other unions stood alongside many civil society groups in a rally outside the Cambodian embassy. Reporters from various daily, TV and internet news outlets covered the action.
In the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka, garment makers marched in solidarity with their Cambodian counterparts while in Jakarta, around 300 members from FSPMI and KSPI took action in front of Cambodian Embassy in Indonesia.
In Tokyo, representatives from RENGO-JTUC (Japanese Trade Union Confederation), as well as Japanese affiliates of UNI and IndustriALL visited the Cambodian embassy in Japan.
Sri Lankan trade unionists demonstrated in solidarity with Cambodian garment workers, and sent a petition of union and civil society leaders to the Cambodian authorities.
The 15,000 kilometres that separate Honduras from Cambodia did nothing to lessen the ties of solidarity. Undaunted by the distance and the lack of an internet connection, Honduran and Nicaraguan union leaders signed a petition the old-fashioned way and vowed to take the ‘free the 23’ campaign back to their own unions and workplaces.
Letters were also sent to the Cambodian government from union affiliates in countries including Germany, Ireland, Nigeria, Norway, Philippines, Sweden, and the UK amongst others.
And of course, several actions were conducted simultaneously around Cambodia itself.
See pictures on our IndustriALL flickr account:
Watch the action:
Bail was refused to the remaining 21 at the hearing on 11 February. The campaign continues.