Military Police in Garment Factory

In May 2013, a new manager of the SL Garment factory in Phnom Penh, who was also a shareholder and military general, deployed armed military police in the factory. Unionists who protested against this intimidation were fired, and legal cases were filed against them. In response to the conditions and dismissals, workers went on strike for nearly four months, with eventual negotiations resulting in an agreement in December 2013.

Meas Sotha, the army general, wearing his military uniform in the factory and posting armed military police in and around it, had changed work shifts from three a day to two a day without discussing this with the trade union. The management engaged in a vicious anti-union campaign. Nineteen key union activists were fired and cases were filed against them.

In response workers started a strike in August 2013, but most of them soon resumed work. Nevertheless, almost 700 workers were fired. According to an SL Garment representative they were fired for not returning to work, but the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Union (C.CAWDU) claims that the dismissals targeted trade union members in an attempt to weaken the union.

Deadly violence

A new strike then started, which lasted for almost four months. The workers were demanding the reinstatement of their sacked colleagues and union leaders, the dropping of all charges against them, the removal of the manager and military general Meas Sotha, and a return to three work shifts.

On 12 November 2013 the protest was met with heavy police violence when the police shot into the crowd with live ammunition, killing an innocent bystander and severely injuring at least six others.

The Clean Clothes Campaign engaged with the main buyers, including Gap, H&M, Inditex (Zara) and C&A, and pushed them to take action and use their leverage with the factory management to end the conflict. An agreement between the union and the factory management was reached in December 2013.

However, months later only two of the eight points of the agreement have been met by the factory management.

Read more about what is happening in Cambodia in the Spotlight page presenting interviews with workers and activists, video's and an interactive timeline about last year's events. 


See also:

Al Jazeera: Cambodia garment workers’ protest turns deadly

Agreement ends SL Garment strike in Cambodia

Agreement on dispute settlement between workers at SL Garment Processing (Cambodia) Ltd. and the factory owner (PDF)