Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Yakjin factory under review



Yakjin factory under review

A man is beaten by authorities on a dirt road in front of Yakjin garment factory in Phnom Penh’s Por Sen Chey district in January
A man is beaten by authorities on a dirt road in front of Yakjin garment factory in Phnom Penh’s Por Sen Chey district in January after a protest turned violent.

Yakjin factory under review

South Korean garment giant Yakjin Trading Corp has engaged a top international labour rights expert to conduct a review of its factories in Cambodia, one of which was a flashpoint during labour strikes earlier this year that saw dozens arrested and at least five people shot dead by authorities.

Both Cambodian and international unions have lobbied the Carlyle Group – a global asset manager that took a 70 per cent stake in Yakjin through a holdings company just weeks before authorities violently suppressed protests outside Yakjin’s Phnom Penh factory on January 2 – to take action.

The crackdown sparked bigger protests in Phnom Penh the next day, leading to the fatal shootings.

The United States’ largest pension fund, a major investor in Carlyle, has also taken a leading role, according to labour activists in the US.

As a result, Yakjin dispatched Gare Smith, a lawyer who served as the top human rights official at the US State Department during the Clinton administration and a former vice president at Levi Strauss & Co, to Phnom Penh for a week in mid-August.

“Yakjin is proud of its labor rights record and, as part of its commitment to its workers, best practices, and continuous improvement, invited labor rights experts to conduct an assessment,” a spokeswoman from Yakjin’s corporate responsibility section said via email. “Though the review is still in progress, the preliminary assessment of Yakjin’s labor practices indicates significant areas of strength as well as some areas for improvement. Upon delivery of the final report, Yakjin will review it and take appropriate action to ensure it continues to meet international labor standards.”

Yakjin’s clients include Gap and Wal-Mart.

Carlyle spokespeople declined to comment.

Dave Welsh, country director of labour rights group Solidarity Center, said the January 2 incident at the factory – which saw 10 people, including activists, secretly detained and eventually put on trial – was only one of several issues at Yakjin, which employs close to 3,000 workers.

These include ongoing problems related to freedom of association and union rights at the factory, he said. It was also important that investors such as Carlyle, like brands, pay attention to macro-issues in the sector, namely ongoing minimum wage talks and the upcoming trade union law, he added, praising the review as a “positive step”.

“Nobody wants Carlyle or any other international investor pulling out of Cambodia. They want them to use the significant influence they have to change conditions on the ground.”

The Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Union – which initially reached out to Carlyle, according to Welsh – could not be reached.

Forbes magazine reported last week that the California Public Employees’ Retirement System had been raising questions about the military crackdown at Yakjin with Carlyle, in which it is a key investor, leading to the review.

Jyrki Raina, general secretary of the IndustriALL Global Union, said that this type of activism from pension funds was increasing, with unions regularly lobbying such investors to take a stand on labour rights.

MOST VIEWED

  • ‘Kingdom one of safest to visit in Covid-19 era’

    The Ministry of Tourism on January 12 proclaimed Cambodia as one of the safest countries to visit in light of the Kingdom having been ranked number one in the world by the Senegalese Economic Prospective Bureau for its success in handling the Covid-19 pandemic. In rankings

  • Ministry mulls ASEAN+3 travel bubble

    The Ministry of Tourism plans to launch a travel bubble allowing transit between Cambodia and 12 other regional countries in a bid to resuscitate the tourism sector amid crushing impact of the ongoing spread of Covid-19, Ministry of Tourism spokesman Top Sopheak told The Post on

  • Kingdom accepts Chinese vaccine, PM first to get jab

    Prime Minister Hun Sen said China would offer Cambodia an immediate donation of one million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine produced by the Sinopharm company. In an audio message addressing the public on the night of January 15, he said Cambodia has accepted the offer and

  • Reeling in Cambodia’s real estate sector

    A new norm sets the scene but risks continue to play out in the background A cold wind sweeps through the streets of Boeung Trabek on an early January morning as buyers and traders engage in commerce under bright blue skies. From a distance, the

  • Quarantine site in north Phnom Penh inaugurated

    A four-building quarantine centre in Phnom Penh’s Prek Pnov district was formally inaugurated on January 6. The centre can house up to 500 people, according to Phnom Penh municipal governor Khuong Sreng. At the inauguration ceremony, Sreng said the municipal hall had cooperated with the Ministry

  • ‘Beware of WhatsApp fraudsters’

    The Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications warned members of the public who use WhatsApp to vigilantly guard against a new trick employed by hackers that involves the use of six-digit codes sent to potential victims via the popular messaging app. The ministry said hackers could