Free the 23!

Labour rights groups call for the immediate dropping of all charges against 23 Cambodian workers detained during wage protests in January.

Today, labour rights groups and trade unions across the world are taking action to demand the immediate release of 21 Cambodian workers who remain in detention following protests, in January, when garment workers called for a rise in the minimum wage to USD160. And the dropping of all charges against all 23 men who were initially detained.

Actions, including the delivery of letters, meetings with Ambassadors, and protests outside Embassies will be taking place in cities across the world including Hong Kong, London, Seoul, Brussels, Washington D.C., Berlin, Jakarta and Geneva calling on the Cambodian Government to:

  • Release the 21 workers still detained and drop the charges against all 23;
  • Undertake a prompt and thorough investigation into violence used against protesters;
  • Respect the right to freedom of association, in line with ILO Convention 87 which Cambodia has ratified;
  • Introduce of a legal framework consistent with Convention 87 and with the collective bargaining Convention 98; and,
  • Institute a sound and inclusive process for determining the minimum wage.

Solidarity actions will also be taking place in countries that do not have a Cambodian Embassy including Bangladesh, Norway, Canada, The Netherlands, Colombia and New Zealand.

On Friday two of the detainees were released on bail, and tomorrow Tuesday 11th February planned bail hearings are due for the other 21.

Violence against garment workers began after Cambodian unions called a national strike on December 24, 2013. Workers were demanding an increase in the minimum wage to USD 160 per month. As protests continued, the police and military responded with violence on January 2 and 3, killing at least 4 people and injuring 39. The 23 now being detained were arrested as part of this violent crackdown.

The day of action comes as monks and workers across the Cambodian capital have also been holding vigils and calling for the release of the 23.

Groups participating in the day of action include global trade unions, ITUC, IndustriALL and UNI and their affiliates and labour rights groups including Clean Clothes Campaign, International Labor Rights Forum, Worker Rights Consortium, Maquila Solidarity Network, Workers United, National Garment Workers Federation (NGWF Bangladesh) and Framtiden i våre hender.