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Garment industry: Will Cambodia face a Bangladesh-like global backlash? (+video)

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(Read caption) Cambodian military police opened fire with assault rifles on Friday to quell a protest by garment factory workers demanding higher pay and human rights workers said at least four people were killed. Chaos during nationwide strikes erupted for a second day as security forces were deployed to halt a demonstration by thousands of workers who refused to move and threw bottles, stones and petrol bombs at an industrial zone in Phnom Penh. The clash represents an escalation of a political crisis in Cambodia, where striking workers and anti-government protesters have come together in a loose movement led by the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP).

Cambodia’s garment industry is following in Bangladesh’s footsteps in the way social and political problems are starting to erode a low-cost labor advantage.

So far, the killing of at least four garment wage protesters on Friday by military police has not grabbed international headlines as dramatically as the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh. But the potential exists for a larger global outcry as security forces appear to be growing less inhibited about using deadly force. At a minimum, the industry faces ongoing disruptions as political and labor protests grow more intertwined.

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Our correspondent in Phnom Penh recently spoke with an International Labor Organization economist, who argued that the factory collapse in Bangladesh was a game-changer for many people in the industry in that social and safety issues became almost as important as things like making deadlines, quality, and wages.... For the rest of the story, continue reading at our new business publication Monitor Frontier Markets.

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