C.CAWDU President Ath Thorn. Source: Clean Clothes Campaign

Trumped-up charges and restrictions against Cambodian union leader must be dropped at once

25.04.2014

IndustriALL Global Union is calling on the Cambodian government to immediately drop trumped-up charges and end restrictions against Ath Thorn, President of IndustriALL affiliate C.CAWDU.

The garment union boss is facing criminal charges, filed by SL Garment Processing Ltd., for incitement to commit a felony. He has now been placed under a court order that prohibits him from meeting SL Garment workers and people in a public gathering that could “damage public order”.

The court is also demanding that Ath Thorn pay bail of US$ 25,000 by the beginning of May.

IndustriALL general secretary, Jyrki Raina, said:

Not only are the charges against Ath Thorn groundless, but the restrictions placed upon him are a blatant violation of his right to freedom of association, and the demand for bail unjust. We urge the Cambodian authorities to drop the charges and restrictions immediately.

Ath Thorn, who is appealing the bail conditions, has been charged with inciting violence at a protest at the SL Garment factory in September last year, despite no evidence against him.

Moreover, in a settlement witnessed and signed by Sat Sakmut, Deputy Secretary of State of the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training in December 2013, C.CAWDU and SL Garment factory agreed that no further legal charges would be filed between either party.

Ath Thorn is one of the most influential non-government union leaders in the country and a prominent trade union campaigner for a raise in the minimum wage and the release of 21 prisoners detained since demonstrations in January.

IndustriALL has written to the Cambodian Prime Minister, Hun Sen, calling on his government to end all legal cases connected with the SL Garment conflict and expressing concern that the case against Ath Thorn may be aimed at frustrating the unions’ legitimate efforts to advocate for a higher minimum wage and for the release of the 21 prisoners.

The C.CAWDU President reveals he is now facing claims that he violated the new restrictions and that authorities are threatening to arrest him, saying:

This is clearly yet another attempt to repress our struggle and deny our basic rights.

In the meantime, garment manufacturers failed to turn up at an intended tripartite workshop with unions and government officials to reform the minimum wage-setting system, with only one member of the garment manufacturers’ association, GMAC, in attendance at the ILO brokered gathering on 24 April.

Last month, IndustriALL Global Union, Uni Global Union and the ITUC together with 30 major brands, including H&M, Inditex, Gap, Adidas and Nike, signed a joint letter to the Deputy Prime Minister of Cambodia reiterating the need for an urgent resolution to the minimum wage and to respect the human rights of the 21 wage protestors.

Ends

Contact:

Leonie Guguen, Communications Officer, IndustriALL Global Union.

Tel: +41 22 308 50 23 I [email protected] 

www.industriALL-union.org Switchboard: +41 22 308 50 50