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Cambodian new law on prisons will legalise forced labour if adopted

[International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC)] -The ITUC sent a letter to the Cambodian Prime Minister to oppose the legislation of the use of prison labour for the benefit of private companies.

 

by Jeroen Beirnaert, Project Coordinator Forced Labour and Trafficking

 

Article 71 of the proposed Law on Prisons provides: "Following the agreement from the Ministry of Interior, the General Director is entitled to enter into a contract to allow prisoners to work for any organisation or individual for the purposes of prison industry and farming, and the General Director may enter into a contract to sell the products from prison industry, handicraft and farming."

 

However, Article 15 of the Labor Law of Cambodia provides that "forced or compulsory labour is absolutely forbidden in conformity with the International Convention No. 29 on the Forced or Compulsory Labour."

 

ILO Convention No. 29 on Forced or Compulsory Labour, ratified by the Kingdom of Cambodia in 1969, is clear that while prison labour may be permissible "as a consequence of a conviction in a court of law," a prisoner cannot be "hired to or placed at the disposal of private individuals, companies or associations." The convention further commands that the competent authority "shall not impose or permit the imposition of forced or compulsory labour for the benefit of private individuals, companies or associations." Further, the convention explains that "No concession granted to private individuals, companies or associations shall involve any form of forced or compulsory labour for the production or the collection of products which such private individuals, companies or associations utilise or in which they trade" and where such concession may already exist they "shall be rescinded as soon as possible." (ILO Convention 29, Article 2(c), 4 and 5)