Global brands urge Cambodia to reform labour amid EU sanction threat

PHNOM PENH              -               Global clothing and shoe brands, including Adidas, PUMA and Levi Strauss have written again to Cambodia’s longtime leader saying the country’s record on labour and human rights threatens to bring down sanctions on its crucial garment industry. The letter urges the government of Prime Minister Hun Sen to amend a trade union law, repeal the law on non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and drop all outstanding criminal charges against union leaders. “The credibility of Cambodia’s apparel, footwear, and travel goods sectors are at stake,” said the letter, seen by Reuters. “We are concerned that the labour and human rights situation in Cambodia is risking the loss of trade preferences for Cambodia,” they added. Government spokesman Phay Siphan did not immediately respond to Reuters re­quest for comment on Friday. Labour Ministry spokesman Heng Sour said he had not seen the letter but said it “might contain the same out of date concerns that we have already addressed according to the Cambodian law and legal pro­cess”. The European Union will decide next month whether or not to strip Cambodia of its “Everything but Arms (EBA)” initiative after a European Commission report found that Hun Sen’s government has cracked down on the opposition, civil society groups and the me­dia. The European Union accounts for nearly half of Cambodia’s exports, the country’s larg­est industry, which employs about 700,000 people and accounts for 40 percent of gross domestic product. The letter, sent to Hun Sen on Wednesday, represents major apparel and footwear companies, including Adidas, Levis Strauss, New Balance, Puma, Ralph Lauren, Under Armour, VF Corporation and American Apparel & Footwear Association. They urged the government to amend the trade union law again as the amendments made on Jan. 3 fell short of international labour rights standards, fail to eliminate arbitrary hurdles to union reg­istration, and restrict the ability of all unions to fully represent their members. The brands also urged the government to repeal law regu­lating associations and NGOs.

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