Hun Sen warns union leaders not to associate with the opposition

Cambodia’s union leaders have been told by Prime Minister Hun Sen to make sure that their factory workers will not organize political protests or support the ramnants of the now-dissolved opposition party, The Phnom Penh Post Online reported .

Hun Sen met with garment industry union leaders at a closed door meeting on Sunday (April 22).  About 800,000 strong, garment workers constitute a crucial voting bloc for both the ruling and opposition parties.  Hun Sen’s speech was not released.

One union leader told the Post that Hun Sen told the union leaders that they must cooperate with the government and not participate with the opposition.

He said Hun Sen directly warned Cambodian Labour Confederation leader Ath Thorn and former unionist Rong Chhun who frequently criticized the government.  But Thorn said on Sunday that the current political climate has limited his advocacy work.

The unionist said Hun Sen was afraid workers would take to the streets to protest.

Ruling party spokesman Sok Eysan confirmed after the meeting that the remarks reflect the government’s stance, saying it is necessary to prevent workers from colluding with the “rebel group” to cause chaos.

Hun Sen has been reaching out to workers in a months-long charm offensive, promising a higher minimum wage and benefits such as health care access and $100 bonuses for new mothers.