Garment industry: Will Cambodia face a Bangladesh-like global backlash?

Cambodia has been gripped by garment workers striking for higher wages, which has led to a heavy-handed government response and serious delays at garment factories.

Heng Sinith/AP
Garment workers throw objects at riot police during a strike near a factory of Canadia Center, on the Stung Meanchey complex at the outskirt of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Friday, Jan. 3, 2014. Police wounded several striking Cambodian garment workers Friday when they opened fire to break up a labor protest, witnesses said.

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.

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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