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Jailed Cambodian Garment Workers Get Suspended Sentences



From VOA Learning English, this is the Economics Report.

On May 30th, a court in Cambodia found guilty 23 clothing workers and union members. They were arrested during violent protests in January in which at least four workers were killed. However, the court immediately suspended the sentences. International companies had watched the case closely. The defendants were charged with a number of offenses including incitement and property damage.

Legal experts said the trial did not meet international guidelines. They said the judge barred defendants from speaking or questioning witnesses. The court gave the defendants sentences from one to four-and-a-half years. But, it then ruled to suspend the sentences to time already served. Unrest about pay has resulted in deadly protest in Cambodia. The monthly minimum wage currently stands at $100. The garment workers want that raised to $160. There is also a disputed law related to trade unions that the government wants to pass by the end of the year.

A delegation of international clothing companies recently spoke to top government officials. Representatives from H&M, Puma and the Gap said they would find other sources for their products unless worker conditions improved. The garment industry in Cambodia employs about 600,00 workers. The brands offered to pay more to factories that employ workers. But, they say the Cambodian government must also act by not using violence or the courts against protesters. The clothing, or garment, manufacturing industry is an important part of Cambodia's economy providing about $5.5 billion in exports last year.

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