The American Apparel & Footwear Association, along with the Fair Labor Association, the Ethical Trading Initiative, and a broad range of apparel and footwear brands and retailers sent a letter to Cambodian Minister of Commerce H.E. Cham Prasidh on Friday expressing concern over recent violent unrest in the country. Most notably, during a recent incident in the Manhattan Special Economic Zone on Feb. 20, three female workers of Puma supplier Kaoway Sports Ltd. were shot and injured. Products and facilities of Kaoway, Kingmaker and Sheico were allegedly damaged by demonstrators.
“We are alarmed that the state of unrest has become increasingly violent and is continuing across other industrial sites,” the industry coalition wrote. “We had hoped that the agreements set out by the local authority were satisfactory enough for all parties to settle their differences and begin to rebuild industrial peace.”
The coalition urged the Cambodian government to conduct a “full and transparent investigation into the recent activities in the Manhattan SEZ and hold those responsible for injuring workers accountable.”
“We hope the government will redouble efforts to create a safe and stable environment for workers and businesses in the country,” the letter said. “We will continue to stand by Cambodia through this period and support constructive dialogue between all parties that respect the rule of law and guarantee workers a fair and safe working environment.”
The coalition said it will continue to work with suppliers that uphold its Codes of Conduct that are based on international human rights norms and the rule of law, including the relevant International Labor Organization conventions on decent work. The group said it will monitor against these standards and work with parties like Better Factories Cambodia to support harmonious industrial relations.
Cambodia was the sixth largest supplier of apparel to the U.S. last year at nearly $2.6 billion worth of goods.