Selected Comments Samdech Techo Hun Sen at the Meeting with over 16,000 Workers and Employees

[Unofficial Translation]


Today I am so happy to be able to meet our workers for the first time in the Phnom Penh Special Economic Zone (PPSEZ), though it is not the first time for me to come here. I had been here three times before – to inaugurate PPSEZ, to launch the anniversary of Minebea Company, and to put into operation the Coca Cola Company. This is my fourth time here but the goal is to meet with our workers.

Monitor Industrial Progresses and What Else to Do

Previously, people saw me going to meet farmers in rice fields or alone water canals, dams, while the Royal Government was implementing agricultural policy to produce and export rice. It is now time that we are implementing our policy for the development of industrial sector for 2015-2025. It is high time that I have to meet our workers in factories in the whole country to monitor and review progresses in industrial sector and figure out what remains to be done for the sake of our workers. We are doing this not only for those in garment but workers in general.

I thank the Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training, representatives of the PPSEZ, factories, and enterprises for the get-together here today with our workers. Workers that are busy in one factory can listen to my audio speech too. They work and listen at the same time […]

Salary Not Less than 153 USD

I have asked workers over there. I found out that they earn a minimum salary over 153 USD now. They said their salary is 184 USD, and they could earn over 200 USD if including other benefits. The important point here is that we will do everything we can to ensure that salary of our garment and apparel workers are not less than 153 USD. However, if factories could increase their salary to 200 USD or even 300 USD, we would be very happy and give them a big applause. I also do not mean that factories who pay their workers now at 180 USD or 190 USD to pay less to meet the minimum salary as defined and agreed upon by the Royal Government, employers, and ILO – what they call tripartite mechanism.

It is a great pleasure for PPSEZ and I wish to affirm that though I am president of the Cambodia Development Council (CDC), which is in charge of investments, in order to ensure smooth works, I also take up leading position of PPSEZ, while HE Sok Chendasophea is the general secretary. All this is to ensure that PPSEZ would grow in a lively and progressing manner.

From Imperialism and Genocide to Win-win, Peace, Reconciliation and Unity

Meeting our nephew and grandchildren workers today has proven the fruits of what I and other leaders have been doing for our country. We are the ones to have created such situation. Well, from where shall we start? Where were you before coming to SEZ, factories, enterprises, hotels, etc.? It is true that our country had gone through uncountable sufferings and tragedies. We had war of imperialist invasion. Then we suffered from the regime of genocide. We made our efforts altogether to win back our right to life and for the national revival. We finally bring back peace together with national reconciliation and national unity through implementation of win-win policy. You could have not been born yet but you may seek this knowledge from your parents and/or grandparents.

Though we had liberated our country, peace and war existed in parts of the country. We had to go through a time when parts of the country enjoyed peace and parts of it were at war. The situation had negative effect on our country reconstruction. We had the necessity to make more efforts to eliminate this state of country but many controlling factions. We need to unify our country. I think some of our workers in these factories could have understood it as some of them might have come from those places where war was imminent.

With Peace, More Factories, More Workers, More Exports

Win-win policy allow various factions to reconcile and our country to unite for the first time under one Constitution, one King, one Royal Government and one armed forces. This is our gold and diamond opportunity for our country. However, these successes are not falling to us from the sky. We are the ones to make it happen. Looking back to between 1997 and the present, things have rapidly changed. In 1997, we had only 64 garment factories and there were some 82,000 workers. Our exports recorded at over 200 million USD. At present, we have some 11,168 factories registered with the Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training in the whole country, where they employ 1,187,227 workers. Female workers are over 830,000 among them.

As for garment factories that we had only 64 in 1997, we now have 1,107 factories that employ over 740,000 workers. Exports value that earned over 200 million USD before has now reached over 7,000 million USD. Including other goods, Cambodian export ability could reach over 12 billion USD […] we are talking billions not hundreds of millions as before. Our workers here for instance are not producing only for local market.

Industrial Development Policy to Draw World Class Factories for Local Resource

HE Ith Sam Heng already mentioned about goods manufactured in PPSEZ are going to ASEAN countries, South Korea, Japan, China, India, Australia, European Union, the US, and to South Africa`[…] it is possible because of our industrial sector development policy and we will promote it not only in garment, which generates over 7 billion USD. We are putting into practice our industrial sector development policy for 2015-2025 to attract investments for local resource processing and for adding value to products of Cambodia. We are also looking to attract high-tech industry, world-class ones, as I mention about the Minebea factory and technology, whose production cater to needs everywhere in the world.

The Three “Don’ts” – Don’t Assist, Don’t Invest, and Don’t Buy

You may wonder and ask a question to yourselves, whose efforts have given you jobs? This should bring us to two groups of people. I would call one of them the “Three Don’ts.” I call the other one the “Three Dos.” Let me explain about the Three Don’ts. You may judge whether they are for national and people interests. People in the “Three Don’ts” group would go everywhere in this world to tell other country not to give assistance to Cambodia. They did that at the Consultative Group Meeting on Cambodia. Secondly, they told those countries not to invest in Cambodia. While detesting Hun Sen, and being eager for power, they had gone this far to destroy their people’s living standard. Thirdly, they told other countries not to purchase any goods from Cambodia.

You may want to think about the “Three Don’ts” group. You may figure out whether what they had been doing is for the national interest. They deny our workers interest here. Have the “Three Don’ts” that they pursued served our workers interests? If those countries were to agree to do the three things as they requested – not to assist, not to invest, and not to purchase, would thousands upon thousands workers have jobs, personal incomes, and even contribution to their families’ development? […]

The “Three Dos” – Beg for Assistances, Investments, Purchase of Goods (Trade)

Fortunately, we have here the Three Dos group. What are they doing? They have been begging for assistance. This group has gone everywhere to seek for help with human resource training, infrastructural development, healthcare, etc. They would blame Hun Sen as a beggar but our country is poor. We are not shy to beg. When we are richer, later we will be able to reciprocate in kind to other countries. We are providing assistance to foreign countries nowadays, as you can see, when we are sending our troops for the UN flagship peacekeeping operations.

Secondly, the group has been begging for investments. We have done many works, more than anyone could have imagined. I met with investors, for example Japanese investors, in Cambodia and in Japan, wherever we could to assure them to come to Cambodia. One of our productive results was when we have this PPSEZ established between local company of Lok Chumteav Lim Chhiv Huor and their Japanese partners. There are many Japanese factories here too. We also have here factories from America and other countries as well.

Investors are looking for favorable conditions – price of electricity and workers salary. We did the best we could to seek better pay for our workers on the one hand and to create favorable conditions required by investors on the other so that they would not move out of Cambodia. We pursue a policy to keep those ones we have and attract new comers.

Thirdly, the group begs other country to purchase our goods. We have asked countries to allow more imports from Cambodia. We asked them to impose no tax and/or reduce tax on imports so we can export in larger volume. We have been lucky that our markets expand and our exports to the US alone have stood at over three billion USD. We are picking up also roughly three billion USD from our exports to the European Union. Bilateral trade between Cambodia and Japan last year reached 1,500 million USD. Our trade volume with China this year aims to realize at five billion USD. Our trade volume with Thailand scored at over four billion USD and over three billion USD with Vietnam […]

You may want to grade which group did a more successful job. It was because of the Three Dos that you are here and earn no less than 160 USD, or not less than 153 USD, which is the minimum level. In the short time to come, your salary will increase. In the year to come, are to set a minimum wage policy at no less than 160 USD per month. As I asked some workers over there, they are earning already 184 USD […]

The “Three Don’ts” Have Appointed Themselves “The Three Insisters”

They paid little or no interest on people’s lives. What they are interested in is power. They would do anything they could, without shame, just to get to it. They have even appointed themselves those who insist to do three things. They insist to exercise regime change. We have transformed this country from one with war to one with peace, from one where people went shabby to one with colorful dresses and wears. Would it be a change of Prime Minister for them to transform this country? […] They insist on increasing salary to win workers’ hearts and minds. Our workers should not confuse and should remember that only the Royal Government can negotiate for your increase of your salary. The opposition or parties that are not in the Royal Government cannot. Thirdly, they insist to launch demonstration. In that case, workers who refused to join them for protests met with their threats. I would not allow that to happen anymore. You have right to protest but you cannot forbid other people from working to join your action […]

As I said, I would not let the 2013 incident to repeat […] they held protest at 2 am. Now they claimed that certain people have gone missing. Have they registered their people taking parts in the protest? What would be the nature of your protest, when you held it at 2 am? It was for overthrowing. How could we know who was who and how many of them were there? I would talk this to the UN one day. They should apprehend protest leaders and question them […]

RGC to Attract Investments for Jobs

In order for you to earn your living, the Royal Government has done many works to ensure peace, because without peace, there could not be development. We need to put in place infrastructures such as roads, rails, ports, airports, electricity, etc. required for investments. Reducing cost of electricity would provide better productivity and increase wages for workers. We have also readjusted issues relating to taxation […] we did all these to attract investors and for our goods to compete with strength in markets. One part of the benefit will of course return to our workers. We have about over one million workers in foreign job markets. We have over three million more working indirectly. We have not yet counted in workers in construction and hospitality.

I thank enterprises in the whole country for paying attention to resolving conflict in workplace to a minimum level. Factories owners must consider workers as their life partners. Without workers, there would not be employers, and vice versa. Without factories, there would not be workers too. The two are mutually coexisting for common interests. They must work together to protect their pots and make their food tasty. Their food is getting tastier, when they make and share profit […]

Sunday – Meet with Administrative Clerks, Wednesday – Meet Workers

I would come here again to meet those of you in the management. I have made it my schedule in a week to meet the factories management on Sunday, and to meet with workers on Wednesday. My topic of talk will not be different. I will bring up again the Three Don’ts and Three Dos.

Peace and Development to Ensure High-Middle Income Status for Cambodia

What shall we do next? Our policy for industrial sector development until 2025 and high-middle income endeavor by 2030 require us to do works in numerous fields – agriculture, industry, service, etc. We have two important things for our people to remember and do what they can to protect and safeguard peace and development. Peace and development are two inseparable elements. Without peace, we cannot develop the country. Look at what happened in Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Mali, Central African Republic, Sudan, South Sudan, and Somalia. Have they had the chance for developing their countries?

In the past, between 1953 and 1970, Samdech Preah Borom Ratanakaod headed the Sangkumreastr Niyum or popular socialist society, in which he led constructions of factories and enterprises. We also had textile factories that produced fabrics for local need. Cambodia was one industrially developed country that can manufacture fabrics for own people and serving needs of police and military. We did what we had to do to restore those factories but they were not sufficient. If Preah Borom Ratanakaod were to stay in power, and lead the country in those difficult years after, our country would not have fallen.

In 1969, per capita income of the Cambodian people was 260 USD, while that of South Koreans was only 74 USD. Now, South Koreans’ per capita is nearly 50,000 USD, and we are at nearly 1,400 USD. You may question why. It was war. You do not have to look at Iraq or other countries to find examples how war tore the countries apart. In the past, because of war, Cambodia couldn’t develop a thing. However, when we have secured peace, our country has been making progresses. Look, we have big bridges crossing the Rover of Mekong, Tone Sap, and Bassac. We have ones to cross over the sea bay. We have seen overpasses and underpasses. We are building more of them.

There would be no success without contributions. I believed in the people of Cambodia who had gone through the past war and genocide. They would not let bad people to rule this country as in the past. Peace must prevail and continue to exist on our pitiful land. It is now a gold and diamond opportunity for us to develop our country. Only free of hunger and social injustice that we can keep peace … We therefore need to expedite programs for development and reforms.

Task 1: Keep Peace, Political Stability, Security, Social Order for Works Safety and Stability

We have two works to continue to do aside from the two important elements – peace and development. I am going to list here five policies that we are focusing on for development, and most of them are relating to workers. I would like to stress that without peace and political stability, or social order, we would have difficulty to guarantee safe and stable works. I am so happy that the PPSEZ is providing residential area for workers and there seems to be under a very good management. I would rather you keep up your good works. There would be no work safety and/or stability from instability like the one caused in 2013, for which politicians urged workers to join protest. Was it a work safety or stability? It was not.

Only we all – authority, workers, employees and employers – are working together to guarantee security, social order, drug free, gangsters free, etc. that we can provide safety for our workers […]

Task 2: Together Keep and Create Jobs

This is an even more important point. I have asked folks on my way in whether we should keep jobs or leave them. In order to keep our jobs, we must make concerted efforts. We must not cause disturbances that factories’ owners move to other countries … because should the rice pot break down, the one to go hungry would be our workers. Owners may have serious debts to pay to banks but they may not be starving. On the contrary, our workers would have to go back to agricultural labor with your parents. It is in this development that we all must keep our jobs and create more together […]

As for the Royal Government, I think it has two essential jobs to do. Firstly, the RGC must continue to attract more investments and ensure trade facilitations. In order to achieve this, there works to carry through. For example, in the frameworks of ACMECS, GMS, and ASEAN, we have to work out agreement for customs at every entrance and exits. For example, while goods monitored on one side of the border, the other side of the border should not bother to do it again. That would be beneficial for investors and part of it would go to our workers’ salary […]

The second task that the Royal Government must be carrying out is to expand markets abroad. I hope that we can find more markets for our garments and apparels. Japan has now imported apparels from Cambodia. We could look at Russia and Belarus. Therefore, it is important that we must keep and create jobs. To achieve this aim, we must attract more investors and expand the markets. Once the markets expand, there will be more demands, so we will have more factories and more jobs.

Task 3: Together Work for Income and Knowledge

This is one critical issue that the Royal Government and the private sector are working out together to make sure that workers will not suffer from income reduction. This year we are setting a minimum salary level at 153 USD, and next year at no less than 160 USD. We must guarantee that our workers will continue to benefit from their wages. That would include, as in yesterday’s trilateral seminar that HE Ith Sam Heng discussed, imposing no tax on salary of one million Riel and less. I must share with you that in every country, income tax applies. In Cambodia, our ceiling for income tax has been uplifted from 500,000 Riel to 800,000 Riel. Last year, we move the income tax ceiling to one million and less […]

Free of Charge Bus Service for Two Years for Workers

(Aside the Royal Government’s efforts to resolve issues relating to prices of electricity and/or running water, and lodgments) let me stress here that our workers, here or anywhere, will benefit from riding city bus free of charge for the next two years. […] I reaffirm – it is the city bus services. […] Workers must present ID to benefit from this policy. I think the Phnom Penh Municipality Transports Office and Phnom Penh Mayor Khuong Sreng already made this policy public.

Task 4: Together for Social Protection, Work Condition, and Work Safety

The fourth task is to focus on social protection, work condition, and work safety. Previously our workers shared 50% in the social security bill on health. Now, starting from January 2018, workers will no longer share the bill. Instead, factories owners will pay those bills on their workers’ behalf to let the latter benefit from health benefits. Our workers will save between 8,000 Riel and 13,000 Riel per month […]

On another front, I am declaring it to the whole country that from January 2018, workers in every sector will receive free-of-charge health treatment in state hospitals. The state will take care of the bills in accordance with equity fund through which we have been providing for over three million workers already. According to our estimate, we would be able to add over two millions more […] I have discussed this policy with concerned ministers – HE Mam Bun Heng, HE Ith Sam Heng, HE Aun Pornmoniroth […]

According to my thinking, concerned ministries of health, labor, economy and finance, tourism, agriculture, land management, urban planning and construction, public works, civil aviation, mines and energy, industry, public functions, must work it out on this interrelated issue together […] We will not neglect any one sector with regard to the implementation of this policy. We will consider at a later stage a more universal effect policy that will to provide free medical treatment free of charge for our people in general … We are considering an open free-of-charge medical treatment policy for all […] and I am talking about services provided by state hospitals only.

More Referral Hospitals In and Nearby Factories Areas

As far as state hospitals are concerned, as I have said it the other day, I would urge the Ministry of Health to expand health clinics as soon as it can into referral hospitals that are closer to factories. Where there are such facilities already, we must provide them with necessary equipments and tools, while enlarge their service abilities. Where there is none, we must seek to provide them with ones. I also call on factories owners to set up own health centre to provide first-aid medical assistance their workers. They also need to see about setting up crèches as well for young mothers to feed their kids. With these assistances in place, I think we will be able to accomplish our tasks of mutual help […]

Factories Owners to Allow Three-Month Leave with Pay for Delivery

There is one other thing that I have the need to share with our workers especially those female ones. They are entitled to a three-month post delivery with pay of 120% of their salary. I am seeking factories owners to reserve understanding for female workers and who have to go through deliveries. I am also asking their permissions to allow mothers to go and check their pregnancies regularly […]

2019 – Pensions for Private Sector Workers

There is this issue of social security concerning retirement pension. Let me affirm that in 2019 we will put into operation this social security policy regarding retirement pension for workers in private sectors. There will be no differences in pensions any more between people working in private sector and in public sector. Once they retire from their works, private sector workers are also entitles to retirement pensions. This is what we are working on to achieve as a state like in other states. You have earned 100% salary while you are young. When you retire, you will also take a pension of 80% of what you earn when you were young as those working in the public sector […]

Issues of Ceasing Trade Union Leaders Contracts, Workers to Respect Labor Law

Work safety is essentially important and I am urging a continuation of what you have been doing well as long as there is this issue of work-related accidents. I have talked with owners of factories and their different level managements about work conflicts. I will keep up talking about this. Sometimes it is a small issue but failing to listen and consider the appeal, it has become a big problem. Making hasty decision to cease work contract of trade union leaders would also cause unrest and protest. Sometimes it leads to intervention from the Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training and other times to Prime Minister to ask the factory owners to allow them back for work. I am asking out workers also to respect labor law. When everyone abides by the law, we could prevent conflicts from happening.

Task 5: More Job Markets Abroad for Legal Migrant Workers

The last work to do is that I wish to send a message to workers employed abroad. According to the figure provided here, we have over one million of them […] they may have to understand that the fact that they are able to find jobs abroad is not a natural cause. Without efforts of the Royal Government, you may not be fortunate to find jobs in those countries, where you are. The Royal Government has been working hard to create legitimate condition for our people to benefit from work-related advantages while working in Thailand, and/or Malaysia, for instance. I never forget to bring this issue up every time I visited Korea. We already sent some five thousands to Japan. We will go on making efforts to help our workers achieve legal status and continue to work there. We are also striving to create local jobs and increase labor price locally so that our people could come back for jobs in the country.

Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Thailand, HE Prayuth Chan O-Cha, and I will jointly chair the two countries cabinets’ meeting in September. We would be trying to set up industrial zone along the border so that our workers would not need to go further into Thailand for jobs […] jobs in external markets play very important role (to the country’s economy too). The Philippines has over 12 million workers abroad. They earn billions of USD per year. In Cambodia alone, we have over ten thousands Philippines workers. Thailand may need labor but they also send their labors abroad to benefit from high pay in Japan, Taiwan, the Middle East, and replace them with labor from Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar […]./.