Category Archives: Cambodia

Building Trust International PP Workshops

KoukKhleangYouthCenter

Source: Via e-mail from Building Trust International

Please contact: Louise Cole with questions

Sustainable Live Build Workshops

We are excited to announce that Building Trust international are hosting a two week long sustainable build workshop in Phnom Penh during February. I am writing to ask as to whether you would be interested in taking part.

We are offering a hands on participatory workshop where you will gain experience in sustainable building techniques and understand more about humanitarian design while supporting a worthwhile community project that will have a huge benefit to the local community and positive effect on the local environment. You will gain an insight into a number of building techniques and architectural styles including some of those listed below.

What will you will learn?

  • Adobe bricks mixing and making
  • Breathable plastering
  • Palm thatch
  • Bamboo structural design concepts.
  • Bamboo anatomy and species familiarisation.
  • Bamboo treatment

This is a hands on course, working with others you will learn on-site skills like site management and material procurement. You will also see first-hand how we promote and work with local communities taking on traditional skills and a host of other sustainable build techniques.When: Mon 10th – Fri 21st  February 2014Please note the workshop will take place between 9am – 5pm on weekdays.Location: KOUK KHLEANG YOUTH CENTER
The youth center is operated by Cambodian organizations Cambodian Volunteers for Society (CVS) and Khmer Kampuchea Krom for Human Rights and Development Association (KKKHRDA) and was 
designed and built by Komitu Architects.

Donation:  We have daily and weekly rates for our educational workshop, please get in touch to find out more.
*Please note all funds raised through the workshop will go towards buying materials to make the projects happen. The running and organisational costs have been covered.We look forward to discussing further as to how you can use your skills to help communities very much in need in Cambodia. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions or queries. 
Our volunteer workshops offer you the chance to meet some fantastic people, learn new skills, visit fascinating locations and contribute to the empowerment of local communities and worthwhile causes. We look forward to hearing from you!
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Human Rights Leaders Arrested Leaving US Embassy, Later Released

Source: http://www.phnompenhpost.com/national/ban-foes-undeterred

Land rights activist Yorm Bopha shouts as she is pulled into a police vehicle by authorities near the US embassy in Phnom Penh

Land rights activist Yorm Bopha shouts as she is pulled into a police vehicle by authorities near the US embassy in Phnom Penh. Pha Lina

Ban foes undeterred

Wed, 22 January 2014
Eleven rights activists delivering petitions to foreign embassies yesterday morning were pulled into waiting vans by district security forces and detained before being released after questioning in the early afternoon.

Dozens of men wielding batons and wearing navy blue uniforms and black motorcycle helmets arrived at the US embassy as a small number of activists gathered to deliver a petition signed by 181 NGOs calling for the release of 23 people jailed after a crackdown earlier this month.

Tep Vanny from the Boeung Kak lake community and Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Independent Teachers Association, were arrested as they left US embassy property along with a staff member of the Housing Rights Task Force (HRTF) and Chheang Thida, director of the Cambodia Union Association at the Kin Tay garment factory in Chak Angre Krom commune.

Shortly after her arrest, Vanny told the Post that she had been unjustly detained.

“We were questioned related to gathering at the US embassy to file the petition. The authorities always arrest me and other people without arrest warrants,” she said.

Two US embassy security guards were seen negotiating with the security forces and protesters during the stand-off.

Sean McIntosh, spokesman for the embassy, condemned the arrests, adding that the embassy officials were requesting that the activists demonstrate on public property across the street.

“The US embassy condemns the arrests of the activists today who were attempting to exercise their constitutional rights to peaceful assembly and expression,” he said. “We continue to urge the Cambodian authorities to rescind their ban on demonstrations in Phnom Penh.

“In keeping with security procedures, the group of activists was asked to conduct its demonstration in the public space across the street from the embassy.”

Another seven activists, including prominent Boeung Kak representative Yorm Bopha, were arrested when security forces blocked the road as they attempted to reach the French embassy on Monivong Boulevard.

The remaining activists then delivered petitions to the British embassy, the headquarters of Unicef and to Amnesty International Asia researcher for Cambodia Rupert Abbott, who had arrived at the Unicef offices to observe.

“We’re going to try to raise international awareness about what’s happening and call on the government to stop this crackdown and really try to look for a way forward,” Abbott said. “In the short-term, [we will try] to help bring national reconciliation and everybody together, but also in the long-run for systematic human rights reforms.”

Phay Siphan, spokesman for the Council of Ministers, said the arrests were a legitimate enforcement of the ban on public gatherings in the capital.

“The question is one of public order. The temporary ban has been issued from the City Hall,” he said. “Those people, the leaders of the demonstration, we can’t let them disturb public order. They were arrested and brought back to the Municipal Police office.”

Shortly after 11am, activists gathered at Phnom Penh Municipal Police Station to demand the release of the 11 detained protesters. All were released at 1:30pm after signing a document stating they will not “induce or participate” in illegal demonstrations.

 

Land rights activists call for the release of 23 detained people yesterday in front of the US embassy in Phnom Penh.

Land rights activists call for the release of 23 detained people yesterday in front of the US embassy in Phnom Penh. Pha Lina

Chhun of CITA said: “The government usually urges us to obey the law, but they are government forces and they did not obey the law. We just filed a petition to the embassies and we have not set up a protest or demonstration, but they arrested us. How can we believe in government to implement the law?”

Ou Virak, president of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, condemned the use of unofficial private security guards to enforce the ban on gatherings.

“They must be learning from China and Vietnam. These are basically hired thugs; it’s a lot easier to hire thugs than pay police properly. The police have been pretty bad, because the salaries are pretty low,” he said. “How do we know these people are trained to handle arrests? To me it’s illegal, but it tells me a lot about the Cambodian security sector.”

Government spokesman Siphan said he thought the practice was justified.

“They are hired by City Hall. We call them ‘police agents’. They are working at private security [firms] and are hired by City Hall to enforce public order. I don’t see what’s wrong with that,” he said.

Contact authors: Daniel Pye and Khouth Sophak Chakrya

Workers of the World Faint!

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/18/opinion/workers-of-the-world-faint.html

By JULIA WALLACE JAN. 17, 2014

Sarah Mazzetti
PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Just over two years ago, at the Anful Garments Factory in Kompong Speu Province, a young worker named Chanthul and 250 of her colleagues collapsed in a collective spell of fainting. They had to be hospitalized; the production line shut down.

Two days later, the factory was back up, and the mass faintings struck again. A worker started barking commands in a language that sounded like Chinese and, claiming to speak in the name of an ancestral spirit, demanded offerings of raw chicken. None were forthcoming, and more workers fell down. Peace, and production, resumed only after factory owners staged an elaborate ceremony, offering up copious amounts of food, cigarettes and Coca-Cola to the spirit.

This episode, however bizarre, was not singular. In the past few years, Cambodia has experienced a slew of mass faintings among garment workers: One after the other, hundreds of women have fallen to the floor of their factories in a dizzy spell called duol sonlap in the Khmer language. The swooning has been attributed, variously, to heat, anemia, overwork, underventilation, chemical fumes and food poisoning. But according to one group of medical anthropologists and psychologists who have studied the phenomenon, two-thirds of these episodes are associated with accounts of possession by local guardian spirits, known as neak ta.

The mass faintings have paralyzed production, to the consternation of the government, factory owners and international clothing retailers. The United States opened its market to Cambodian exports in the 1990s, and the garment industry in Cambodia has since become a $5 billion-a-year business. According to the country’s Garment Manufacturers Association, there are now over 600 garment factories, most owned by Taiwanese, Korean, Chinese, Hong Kong and Singaporean companies. Many were hastily erected on the dusty outskirts of Phnom Penh and in a few other free-trade zones — on land where people believe neak ta have lived for generations.

Although Theravada Buddhism has been the official religion of Cambodia since the 13th century, it never supplanted the existing pantheon of ancestral spirits, local gods and Brahamanic deities. Perhaps the most important of these is the neak ta, a spirit strongly associated with a specific natural feature — a rock, a tree, a patch of soil. These spirits represent a village-based morality and are inseparable from the land. This connection is so strong that in past times even some kings were seen to be merely renting the land from neak ta.

Like those kings of old, Cambodia’s deeply superstitious prime minister, Hun Sen, in power for almost three decades, calls on land and water spirits to curse his enemies. Most Cambodians today, while Buddhist, ply spirits with tea and buns at small altars.

These days, when neak ta appear on the factory floor — inducing mass faintings among workers and shouting commands at managers — they are helping the cause of Cambodia’s largely young, female and rural factory workforce by registering a kind of bodily objection to the harsh daily regimen of industrial capitalism: few days off; a hard bed in a wooden barracks; meager meals of rice and a mystery curry, hastily scarfed down between shifts. These voices from beyond are speaking up for collective bargaining in the here and now, expressing grievances much like the workers’ own: a feeling that they are being exploited by forces beyond their control, that the terms of factory labor somehow violate an older, fairer moral economy.

Early last year, I met a 31-year-old woman called Sreyneang, a worker at Canadia Industrial Park, west of Phnom Penh. She had recently caused dozens of her co-workers to collapse after speaking in the voice of a neak ta. While entranced, she had also assaulted the president of the factory’s government-aligned union, pounding him with her fists and pelting him with insults.

We chatted on the dirt floor of the tiny wooden house where she lived; there was nowhere else to sit. She said she had been feeling ill on the day of the fainting, and that the factory nurse had refused to let her go home. She did not remember most of what had happened next, but a spirit healer later explained that a neak ta had entered her, infuriated that a banyan tree on the factory site which had been his home for centuries was chopped down, with neither ritual propitiation nor apology, during the construction of the building.

A few months after that event, something similar happened at a sporting-goods factory near the capital that was said to have been haunted ever since it opened in August 2012. Female workers asked their supervisor, a man named Ah Kung, if they could hold a ceremony and offer a chicken to a neak ta angered at being displaced from the site. He refused. Two days later, the spirit entered the body of a young female worker, Sreymom, and claiming, in her voice, to have been “looked down upon,” began shouting in a mixture of Khmer and short, quick syllables her colleagues took to be Chinese. Several dozen other workers lost consciousness and had to be treated at a local clinic.

“When she was possessed, she just pointed around everywhere,” one eyewitness explained afterward. “She said, ‘I want to meet Ah Kung.’ She said, ‘I want to meet him because I lived here a very long time and he never respected me and this is my land.”’ When Ah Kung arrived, the bystander said, “He came out and knelt down in front of her and offered whatever the neak ta asked.”

What the spirit was asking for was respect. He demanded that an altar be built and that ritual offerings be made to him there four times a month. He demanded that the owner roast a pig for him and throw a Khmer New Year party for the workers. The owner complied. The faintings stopped.

In other times and places, ethnographers have also noted seemingly magical manifestations when indigenous populations first confront industrial capitalism. As the manufacture of linen intensified in northern Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries, household spirits began to appear in textile workshops in a more malevolent form. There was the story about the demonic imp Rumpelstiltskin, for example, who helped a young woman spin grotesque amounts of thread, but only in exchange for her firstborn. Other fairy tales sublimated the distress caused by the environmental and social costs of intensified flax production. The anthropologist Michael Taussig has written about Colombian peasants who were newly incorporated into wage labor on sugar cane plantations in the 1970s and reportedly sold their souls to the devil to increase their productivity.

Aihwa Ong, another anthropologist, documented an outbreak of spirit possession in the 1970s among Malaysian women in Japanese-owned electronics factories. These workers often screamed hysterically and attacked their supervisors under the influence of a native spirit called a datuk. Ms. Ong interpreted these acts as a spiritual rebellion against the drudgery of factory life and the rupturing of the women’s longstanding social ties as they migrated from villages to newly established free-trade zones.

She also concluded that the spirit visitations did the women little good because they allowed the factory owners to cast the women’s valid complaints about working conditions as mass hysteria.

In Cambodia, the opposite seems to be true. Like Ms. Ong’s subjects, the vast majority of garment workers here are female and young. Many are the first generation in their families to work outside their native rice-farming communities. They often send a large portion of their wages back home, and feel both lucky to be able to do this and desperate. “The conditions are terrible — very, very bad,” Sreyneang told me as she described working six days a week to eke out $120 a month, without being allowed to take days off even when sick. “The factory has always been really strict.”

Despite efforts to diversify, the garment industry in Cambodia still makes up around 80 percent of the country’s total exports. Because the economy is so vulnerable to instability in the sector, the government has often reacted harshly, even violently, to garment workers’ efforts to unionize or take any collective action to ask for higher wages. During recent demonstrations, on Jan. 2 and 3, striking workers at Canadia Industrial Park and another factory near Phnom Penh were set upon by soldiers and military police; at least four were killed and dozens were injured.

Cambodian workers frequently complain that they are forced to work overtime and threatened when they try to join independent unions rather than one of the many government- or factory-backed unions that have sprung up over the past decade. (For an estimated garment workforce of at least 450,000, by the International Labor Organization’s tally, there are now over 400 unions, according to Solidarity Center, an international labor rights group.) Pro-government and pro-factory unions occupy most of the seats allotted to labor on the national committee that determines wage increases, and their dominance complicates collective bargaining.

In September 2010, when the national minimum wage was $61 per month, some 200,000 workers took to the streets to ask for a raise. It was the largest-ever strike in the garment sector, but after just three days it came to an anticlimactic halt due to police violence and threats against union leaders. Hundreds of the striking workers were illegally fired in retaliation. The minimum wage remained the same.

Then the neak ta appeared. Mass faintings in garment factories increased exponentially in early 2011, just a few months after the mass strike fizzled. Production lines shut down after the workers’ bodies shut down, and spirits bargained with management on the factory floor.

Public sentiment started to shift. During the 2010 strikes, few seemed preoccupied with workers’ rights. Even the foreign media and the Asian Development Bank’s chief economist wondered aloud whether the workers’ demands would hurt the industry. But when the mass faintings began, concern for the workers grew: Were they earning enough to feed themselves? Were they being exposed to dangerous chemicals?

Since then, basic pay for garment workers has risen from $61 to $80 per month, and is set to rise again to $100 in February. Numerous conferences on occupational health and safety have been convened. Individual factories, the consortium of garment producers and mass retailers like H&M have commissioned studies of working conditions in Cambodian factories. Garment workers have started to receive monthly bonuses for health and transportation.

Not all improvements can be attributed to spirit visitations: The country’s six independent unions have been fighting hard for wage increases. And working conditions still leave a great deal to be desired; labor rights advocates say that $160 a month is the minimum workers need to adequately feed and house themselves. But insofar as conditions have gotten better, it is partly because the factory-floor faintings have reframed the debate. The government’s brutal repression of this month’s strike has shown that it will still not tolerate large-scale collective bargaining. But mass swooning is a rare form of group action that can hardly be suppressed.

And now neak ta have been showing up to defend other victims of development. The spirits have appeared at demonstrations and sit-ins organized by the political opposition, which has been contesting the results of elections held in July, which kept Hun Sen’s governing party in power. At protests against urban dispossession in Phnom Penh, traditional animist curses are often levied at state institutions. Salt and chilies are hurled at courthouses, chickens are offered to spirits, mediums summon local gods to mete out justice in land disputes.

Last year, in a slum in Phnom Penh, a demonstration by residents who were being evicted by a wealthy landlord was interrupted when a neak ta possessed an indigent woman who lived under a staircase with her mentally ill husband, both suffering from H.I.V. The woman assaulted a local official who was trying to shut down the protest, forcing him to stand down. Previously, the landlord had cut down an old banyan tree believed to be the neak ta’s home.

“I have been protecting this area for a long time,” the woman shouted, “and I am very angry because the company demolished my house. I am very, very angry.”

Julia Wallace is executive editor of The Cambodia Daily in Phnom Penh.

A version of this op-ed appears in print on January 19, 2014, on page SR4 of the New York edition with the headline: Workers of the World, Faint!. Order Reprints|Today’s Paper|Subscribe

Is Cambodia at a Tipping Point?

Source: http://edition.cnn.com/2014/01/10/world/asia/cambodia-protests-analysis/index.html

January 11, 2014 — Updated 0434 GMT (1234 HKT)
A man armed with a wooden stick rallies during a protest in front of a garment factory in Phnom Penh on January 3.
A man armed with a wooden stick rallies during a protest in front of a garment factory in Phnom Penh on January 3.
Story Highlights
  • Anti-government protests in Cambodia have recently taken a violent turn
  • Protests underscore ongoing tension between Prime Minister Hun Sen and opposition party
  • Ban on demonstration is criticized by human rights groups

Phnom Penh, Cambodia (CNN) — Earlier this week, Cambodia marked 35 years of freedom from the Khmer Rouge regime, whose revolutionary blueprint for an agrarian paradise caused the deaths of nearly two million in the 1970s.

But instead of uniting Cambodians, the date perennially divides them.

Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party casts the anniversary in the light of victory and liberation. Opposition figures shrug off the festivities as propaganda, a reminder that after the Khmer Rouge leaders retreated in 1979, the Vietnamese who defeated them stayed for 10 years.

The diverging perspectives underscore what’s happening now. In the name of public order and security, the government commemorating the fall of a regime is leading one of the most aggressive campaigns against dissenting foes in recent memory, according to analysts.

“Cambodia is now at a tipping point,” said Carl Thayer, a longtime observer of the country’s politics and a professor emeritus at the University of New South Wales in Australia.

In the past nine days, pro-government security forces have arrested human rights defenders, gunned down five striking garment workers and violently evicted protesters from a designated free speech zone called “Freedom Park.”

At least 3 dead after security forces open fire

Last weekend, the Ministry of Interior temporarily banned demonstrations and the courts have summoned opposition leaders Sam Rainsy, president of the Cambodia National Rescue Party, and his deputy, Kem Sokha.

“Cambodian authorities appear to have given up any semblance of democracy, rule of law or justice,” said Tola Moeun, head of the local advocacy group the Community Legal Education Center, in a statement earlier this week, after activists were briefly detained Monday in an apparent enforcement of the ban on demonstrations.

“The big questions are what is next and who will be next? This madness must end now.”

The United Nations’ human rights arm has urged an investigation into the violence, and major clothing manufacturers that conduct business in Cambodia — including H&M, the Gap and Inditex, the parent company of Zara — asked in a letter for a peaceful resolution.

Seeds of conflict

Seeds of turmoil were sown in July, when Hun Sen’s long-ruling CPP lost a chunk of parliamentary seats in the national elections, and Rainsy’s Cambodia National Rescue Party, or CNRP, almost doubled its own. But Rainsy and his supporters claimed they were robbed of crucial votes that would have put them in front, ending nearly 30 years of Hun Sen’s rule.

They demanded an international investigation into the election — which didn’t happen — and for Hun Sen to step down. Thousands of people took to the streets in protest.

While the opposition had floundered at times — revising its demands to include a new election — it appeared stronger than ever as 2013 came to a close.

The largely peaceful journey of civil disobedience began to veer off course on December 24, when unions, many of which line up politically with the opposition party, called for a nationwide garment worker strike, demanding an immediate monthly wage bump to $160 — nearly double the $95 that the government first offered, and well above the $100 that was eventually proposed as a final offer.

Soon, new groups joined. Tuk-tuk drivers demanded lower gasoline prices. Buddhist monks called for the authorities to find a stolen golden urn believed to contain ashes of the Buddha. All of the anger pointed in one direction.

Crackdown country

On the evening of January 2, the crackdown began.

In a protest outside a garment factory, authorities arrested 10 people, including garment workers and at least three human rights advocates, according to the Cambodian rights group Licadho. The arrested men face up to five years imprisonment.

The next day, anger erupted outside the Canadia Industrial Park in southwest Phnom Penh. Hundreds of garment workers threw rocks at security forces and created burning roadblocks. Some carried Molotov cocktails. Military police responded by firing automatic weapons. Five workers were killed in the bloody clash, the U.N. said this week. Almost 40 were injured, and 13 people arrested, according to Licadho.

On the hectic day of the confrontation, young men engaged in a standoff with a phalanx of riot police. One protester, In Chanthan, 26, who works at the park, was undeterred, cupping bullet casings in his hand as evidence. “Very cruel,” he said.

Authorities secured the area. The sun rose on empty factories, smashed shops looted by demonstrators, mourning families and fearful residents.

“I think Hun Sen believes he’s losing control of the situation,” said Brad Adams, executive director for Human Rights Watch’s Asia division. The prime minister has never really accepted the right to protest, he added.

The government defended its actions, saying it had allowed the opposition to protest for months. But members of the public complained, said Phay Siphan, spokesman for the Council of Ministers, a collection of top cabinet posts.

“The third party wants to use the street fairly. An ill person who wants medical attention gets blocked,” he said. “It’s too much.”

The forceful response on January 2 had to occur because a national road was being occupied by demonstrators, he said. At Canadia Industrial Park the following day, protesters had become aggressive, damaging factories and throwing rocks and using slingshots to project “iron balls” at authorities.

“It’s not a protest anymore, it became a riot,” he said, adding that the government feels sorry for those killed.

“We so regret that this happened, but they didn’t obey peacefully, to cease all activity.” he said.

Rallying point targeted

On the morning of January 4, pro-government security guards and plainclothed thugs wearing red armbands stampeded through the opposition’s main protest camp, Freedom Park, in the heart of the city, as tourists ate breakfast only blocks away. Police at the scene did nothing to stop them.

“The military force kicked the protesters,” said Soeng Piseth, 31, a microfinance worker who managed to escape.

City Hall issued a statement justifying the clearing of the park, saying it was an attempt to maintain order and security. The crowd “protested in an attempt to topple the government, and burned down garment factories,” said Mok Chito, head of the department of central justice in Cambodia’s Ministry of Interior.

Siphan justified the subsequent ban on demonstrations — which critics say is a crackdown on free speech and freedom of assembly — saying “there has to be a cool-down period. The divisions are so deep right now.”

In tandem with the eviction, summonses were dispatched to CNRP leaders Rainsy and Sokha, asking them to appear in court on January 14 to explain the turmoil. Sokha’s political activities had landed him in jail before, and Rainsy’s brushes with the government caused him to flee to France in 2009, returning last year on the coattails of a royal pardon.

By Sunday, January 5, security forces were stationed at various points in the capital.

A common refrain in recent weeks has been that the rallies represented the most serious threat to Hun Sen’s government in years. But after heavy-handed pressure in the first week of January, garment strikers have largely returned to work and opposition leaders are regrouping. Freedom Park is eerily empty.

On Thursday morning, when an opposition-affiliated youth group tried to sing a song inside the park, military police and security guards stopped them from getting into the main area, sending a clear message that the government will enforce its ban on demonstrations.

The opposition’s staying power and resilience are finally being put to test.

“We have to wait until the environment is a little bit calm,” said Yim Sovann, a CNRP spokesman, this week. He added that protests in the city would resume, though he didn’t say when.

Hun Sen’s Eye on Twitter

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I’m the eye of Hun Sen, not Hun Sen. It’s lonely in here, so I need a creative outlet. Social media consultant for misunderstood strongmen everywhere.

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Violent Weekend Crackdown on Labor Protests Led to End of Strike; Factories Reopen

By  CHUN HAN WONG and  SUN NARIN

Updated Jan. 6, 2014 12:35 p.m. ET

Workers carry a protester who was wounded during clashes. Zuma Press

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia—A nationwide strike in Cambodia’s garment industry petered out Monday after a violent weekend crackdown on political and labor protests, allowing most factories to resume production.

The fizzling of one of Cambodia’s largest strikes in recent years brought relief for many garment manufacturers, who have complained of mounting financial losses because of missed shipments and lost orders. The strike—started Dec. 24 by tens of thousands of workers demanding higher wages—also stoked concerns over a widening fallout for this Southeast Asian economy that relies heavily on garment manufacturing as its main export earner and biggest formal-sector employer.

Police in Phnom Penh prevented land-rights activists from filing a petition with France’s embassy on Monday. Getty Images

Union officials and workers halted their protest after police on Friday opened fire on a labor demonstration, killing at least four people and injuring dozens more. Authorities also arrested 13 workers before extending the crackdown to opposition supporters, dispersing them from their main rallying point in the capital on Saturday and banning further protests indefinitely.

Opposition leaders and rights groups have condemned the violence, but labor and industry officials credited the crackdown for ending the strike.

“Most, if not all, factories reopened today [Monday], though only about 50% to 60% of workers came back,” said Ken Loo, secretary-general of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia, which represents roughly 600 factories. “Many workers had gone back to their hometowns to avoid trouble, but they should be returning over the next few days,” he said.

Oum Mean, secretary of state at the Ministry of Labor, estimated that roughly 80% of factories were open Monday, excluding those in the vicinity of Veng Sreng Boulevard—the site of Friday’s shootings.

At Veng Sreng, located in southern Phnom Penh, the area’s convivial bustle has been muted by a heavy security presence. Since Saturday, heavily armed soldiers have patrolled the two-lane thoroughfare in jeeps—mounted with light machine guns—and heavy trucks, keeping a close watch on residents and the few workers who stayed behind. “There’s far less vehicle and pedestrian traffic than usual,” said Cheang Vinna, a 31-year-old who works at one of the factories along Veng Sreng Boulevard. “Most workers have left in fear.”

The strike started as a protest against the government’s offer last month to raise the industry minimum wage 19% to $95 a month, starting in April—well short of union demands for $160 a month. Workers then scorned a sweetened offer made by officials last week—a 25% increase to $100 a month, starting in February—and defied government orders to return to work by Jan 2.

The Asia Floor Wage Alliance, a group of trade unions and labor rights activists, estimates that a living wage for Cambodian garment workers should be $283 per month.

Unionists still hoped to achieve their goal, but said they would rethink their approach after the Friday’s clashes. “We don’t currently have plans for more protests since the situation has worsened. We don’t want to see more lives lost through violent suppression,” said Ken Chheanglang, vice president of the National Independent Federation Textile Union of Cambodia. “We appeal to workers to return to work and earn their wages first, while we decide our next strategy.”

Garment manufacturing is Cambodia’s biggest export business, supplying apparel to retailers mainly in the U.S. and European Union. The industry earned nearly $5.1 billion in the first 11 months of 2013, up 22% from the period in 2012, according to the Commerce Ministry. Cambodia has about 800 garment and footwear factories that employ about 600,000 workers, mostly women, labor officials say.

Manufacturers favor the country for its low-wage costs, but strikes are frequent because of what union leaders say is widespread discontent with meager salaries, poor working conditions and lax enforcement of labor laws.

Industry officials say it is difficult to gauge financial impact from the latest strike, though a rough assessment—based on historical export data and the number of working days lost—suggests that garment makers may have lost hundreds of millions of dollars in output.

Many factories have temporarily shifted production out of Cambodia while others may be considering a longer-term relocation, said Mr. Loo, the industry association official.

“Besides loss of production time and costs incurred on making alternative production and shipping arrangements, there are intangible costs as well,” such as reputational damage, he said.

Broader economic impact, however, should be limited barring any fresh flare-up in labor unrest, economists say. Chan Sophal, president of the Cambodian Economic Association, said he still expects economic growth in 2013 to come in at roughly 7%, as many had projected before the strike. “If the risks don’t recur, growth could be maintained at roughly 7% this year,” he said.

Write to Chun Han Wong at chunhan.wong@wsj.com

Chairman Royce Responds to Reports of Violence in Cambodia

Source: http://foreignaffairs.house.gov/press-release/chairman-royce-responds-reports-violence-cambodia

JAN 5, 2014

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, issued a statement following reports in Cambodia of elite military units and plainclothes policemen beating and murdering peaceful protesters:

“Hun Sen has brought Cambodia to the brink.  No longer content to marginalize the opposition, the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) is now killing peaceful protesters, and has issued warrants for both Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha, both who have been forced into hiding because of the CPP’s crackdown.  It’s time for Hun Sen to end his three-decade grip on power and step down.  The people of Cambodia deserve far better.”

Cambodia Cracks Down on Protest With Evictions and Ban on Assembly

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/05/world/asia/cambodia.html

  • Thomas Cristofoletti/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

  • Nicolas Axelrod/Getty Images

  • Samrang Pring/Reuters

  • Mak Remissa/European Pressphoto Agency

  • Heng Sinith/Associated Press

  • Heng Sinith/Associated Press

  • Heng Sinith/Associated Press

  • Samrang Pring/Reuters

  • Samrang Pring/Reuters

  • Samrang Pring/Reuters

  • Omar Havana/Getty Images

  • Luc Forsyth/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
By 
Published: January 4, 2014

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Seeking to quash one of the most serious challenges to the nearly 30-year rule of the country’s authoritarian leader, Cambodian authorities evicted antigovernment protesters on Saturday from a public square and banned all public gatherings as a court summoned two opposition leaders for police questioning.

After months of inaction in the face of growing public dissent to his rule, Prime Minister Hun Sen appeared to signal that he was entering a more aggressive posture toward his critics. The crackdown came after a clash on Friday between protesting garment workers and the Cambodian police that left four of the demonstrators dead. The workers have been at the forefront of growing protests against Mr. Hun Sen’s government.

Mr. Hun Sen’s party claimed victory in July elections, which the opposition and independent observers say were riddled with irregularities. Since then, the opposition has called for him to step down.

In a country with a history of violence against opposition figures, the two opposition leaders wanted for questioning, Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha, appeared to go into hiding.

“They are in a safe place,” said Mu Sochua, an opposition politician who was elected as a lawmaker in July but has boycotted Parliament along with the rest of the opposition.

Last weekend, the opposition staged a protest march of tens of thousands of people through the streets of Phnom Penh, an act of defiance on a scale rarely seen during Mr. Hun Sen’s more than 28 years in power. After the crackdown Saturday, the opposition announced it was canceling a march planned for Sunday.

In a statement, the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party urged its followers to remain calm “while the party seeks alternative ways” to continue its campaign against Mr. Hun Sen’s government.

Many parts of Phnom Penh were unaffected by the crackdown, including the main tourist area along the Mekong River. But elsewhere, hundreds of police officers and soldiers blocked roads, broke up crowds of bystanders and cordoned off the public square, known as Freedom Park, where the protesters had been gathering.

The dispersal of demonstrators from Freedom Park by the police and others was highly symbolic. In 2009 the government officially designated the square as a place where Cambodians could express themselves freely, roughly modeling it on Speakers’ Corner in London. The square has been the center of protests led by the opposition since the elections in July. Protesters who have camped out there since mid-December have included Buddhist monks, elderly farmers and human rights advocates.

The Cambodian Center for Human Rights, an independent advocacy organization, accused the government on Saturday of a “violent clampdown on human rights” and said protesters were chased out of the square by “thugs dressed in civilian clothes” who were armed with steel poles and other makeshift weapons, an observation corroborated by journalists who were present.

A number of protests during Mr. Hun Sen’s time in power have been broken up by shadowy groups. In 1997, a grenade attack on a protest led by Mr. Sam Rainsy left at least 16 people dead.

On Saturday, Cambodia’s Ministry of Interior issued a statement saying that the eviction of protesters “was conducted in a peaceful manner without any casualties.” Recent protests, the statement said, “led to violence, the blocking of public roads and the destruction of public and private property,” an apparent reference to the clashes between garment workers and soldiers on Friday, among other recent episodes.

The statement said all protests and public assembly were banned “until security and public order has been restored.” It also advised “all members of the national and international community to remain calm and avoid participating in any kind of illegal activity that could have negative consequences on the national interests.”

Mr. Hun Sen has been credited with stabilizing the country after the brutality of the Khmer Rouge, whose genocidal policies led to the deaths of 1.7 million Cambodians. But in recent years he has accumulated highly centralized power, including a praetorian guard that appears to rival the capabilities of the country’s regular military units.

Economic growth that has brought modernity and prosperity to Phnom Penh has exposed stark inequalities in the country, where well over a third of children are malnourished. Only one-quarter of the Cambodian population has access to electricity. The streets of Phnom Penh are shared by luxury cars and families of four squeezed onto dilapidated motorcycles.

Garment workers, who number in the hundreds of thousands, have been the most aggressive in seeking higher wages. Striking workers are demanding a doubling of the monthly minimum wage to $160 from $80, an increase that the industry says will make it uncompetitive.

In the clash on Friday, garment workers confronted officers with rocks, sticks and homemade firebombs. The police fired into the crowd with assault rifles, witnesses said. In addition to the protesters killed, at least 20 people were injured.

A version of this article appears in print on January 5, 2014, on page A9 of the New York edition with the headline: Cambodia Cracks Down on Protest With Evictions and Ban on Assembly.

3D Printer Arrives in Kingdom

Source: http://www.phnompenhpost.com/7days/cambodia%E2%80%99s-tech-revolution-3d-printer-arrives-kingdom-shores

A 3D printer produces a chocolate heart. BLOOMBERG

A 3D printer produces a chocolate heart. BLOOMBERG

Cambodia’s tech revolution? 3D printer arrives on Kingdom shores

Fri, 27 December 2013

3D printers have given the US technology industry a boost. Bennett Murray meets the brothers who are introducing the idea to Cambodia.

One of the world’s most curious tech toys has arrived in the Kingdom: the 3D printer. The concept, so new that even its pioneers aren’t quite sure what to do with it, is in Phnom Penh courtesy of a pair of Cambodian-American brothers who aim to make the city a hub for the burgeoning technology.

Ki How Tran, 23 and Ki Chong, 26, founded a firm, Arc Hub, in October, intended to teach people how to use the printers after Ki Chong learned about the technology while working sales for an aerospace company in Los Angeles. After researching the possibilities, Chong decided to bring one printer to his ancestral homeland.

“It kept snowballing, so eventually I thought, let’s bring it to Cambodia and they can use it,” he said in an interview in Phnom Penh.

Their short term plan is to begin 3D printing classes next month at SmallWorld, a collaborative work place and business resource centre in Toul Kork. With the help of two recent architecture graduates, who will focus on the software aspect of 3D printing, Kiw How and Ki Chong plan to teach their students everything from the design aspect to the physical construction of the devices.

The brothers’ own first printer arrived dissembled from the US and had to be constructed by Ki How.

“I had never even seen one until I built one,” he said. Without any prior experience, it has been up to the brothers to figure out for themselves how to make the technology work.

“I want to teach students from the very beginning how to wire everything – how to set everything up, so they can say that Cambodia has built its first 3D printer,” said Ki How Tran.

 

A 3D printer passes the Royal Palace in a tuk-tuk. PHOTO SUPPLIED

A 3D printer passes the Royal Palace in a tuk-tuk. PHOTO SUPPLIED

The devices, which were invented in the 1980s and popularised in the early 2010s, turn digitally designed 3D graphics into tangible objects through a process of sequential layering. Although some hi-tech models can create objects out of metal and even live cells, most 3D printers use plastic.

The hope, said Ki How, is that 3D printers will one day replace physical couriers. “Ideally, every major city will have a 3D printer, so you wouldn’t really need to ship.”

The possibilities are endless, with everything from food to human organs potentially printable. US President Barack Obama gave tech engineers a morale boost when he highlighted the printers as a potential source for new hi-tech jobs last February.

A Texas man made headlines after designing a functional firearm made almost entirely with a 3D printer. There has been negative news too: the controversy of 3D printed hand guns.

For good or bad, this year saw enormous growth in varieties of printer, some of which reached their lowest yet prices at around $199.

But despite the hype, 3D printing is yet to hit its stride. It was only a matter of weeks ago that 3D systems announced a full-tone printer that could create rainbow-coloured objects.

“That’s pretty much everyone’s question: what are people going to use it for?” said Ki Chong.

In Cambodia, he suggested, 3D printers could mean mass production on a cheaper budget.

“You don’t need giant factories, land, huge investments of even a very high level of technical skill to make things using 3D printing.

 

Twin brothers Ki Chong and Ki How Tran

Twin brothers Ki Chong and Ki How Tran.Heng Chivoan

 

“It allows countries with very little resources, like Cambodia, to create things uniquely for themselves that otherwise would have been mass-produced by giant factories in China or Vietnam.”

Va Chenda, a 22-year-old graphic designer for Arc Hub, said the printing will offer an outlet for Cambodia’s creatives.

“With 3D printing, anyone can be a designer. They can design their own thing and bring it out, instead of just going to the market and buying the same thing as a million other things in the market.”

Chenda also said that the technology presents the potential for cheap manufacturing in the Kingdom that goes beyond the garment sector.

“If we compare to the startup costs of factories, and the cost of the machines for the printers, [3D printing] is cheaper. You can sell their designs online, so you can get a profit without steep costs.”

The brothers, who own two printers imported from the US, have thus far printed objects with varying degrees of success. The team managed to create a spare gear for a sewing machine that Ki How Tran estimated would have otherwise cost around $200 to replace, but a plastic sculpture of US comedian Stephen Colbert ended up looking like a deformed Abraham Lincoln due to a hardware malfunction.

Both brothers agreed, however, that the point of experimenting with 3D printing today is to get onboard with the technology before its practical uses take off in full force.

Ki Chong compared 3D printing to the early days of the Internet, or computers, adding it had the potential to “fundamentally disrupt and change how things are made, but no one knows exactly how or what is going to be made.

“If you compare 3D printing to the Internet, we are before the time of email, instant messaging, or news websites, which showed the practical applications of the Internet,” he said.

“No one back then could have predicted smartphones, Twitter, Facebook, crowd-funding, couch-surfing, and so on, which all fundamentally changed the way we do business and interact with each other.”

“I want to bring 3D printing to Cambodia so people can learn about it and use it at the same time as the rest of the world, while it is still a new technology, so Cambodia won’t be left behind, but instead be in the front, leading the way.”​

Arc Hub, a work space where 3D printing skills are taught, can be found at #17 Street 604, Touk Kork, Phnom Penh.