PHNOM PENH, Dec. 26 (Xinhua) -- Cambodia's main opposition party has been creating unrest in garment industry for its own political ambition, government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said Thursday.
"The opposition party has been causing turbulence in garment sector, so it takes advantage of the situation," he told reporters at the Phnom Penh International Airport before accompanying Prime Minister Hun Sen for an official visit to Vietnam.
"Who will lose if those factories close?" asked Khieu Kanharith, who is also the minister of information. "Is the opposition party able to find new jobs for workers if the factories close?"
Garment industry, the country's largest foreign currency earner, comprises about 500 factories employing some 510,600 workers. The sector earned 5 billion U.S. dollars in the first 11 months of this year.
Tens of thousands of garment workers took to the streets on Wednesday and Thursday after the government announced Tuesday that the monthly minimum wage for a garment worker would be raised to 95 U.S. dollars in April onwards from the current 80 dollars, as the first step in a five-year plan to raise the minimum wage to 160 dollars by 2018.
But pro-opposition trade unions, which represent about 200,000 workers, rejected the 15 dollars wage increase in 2014 and demanded the government and factory owners double the worker's wage to 160 dollars from 2014.
"We demand the government and garment manufacturers to raise a worker's monthly wage to 160 U.S. dollars from 2014," Ath Thon, president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers' Democratic Union, said Wednesday. "If the demand is not met, we will stage a large-scale strike in the near future."
Sam Rainy, president of the Cambodia National Rescue Party ( CNRP), who has led a new round of daily protests against Prime Minister Hun Sen's government since Dec. 15 following July's disputed election, has incited striking workers to join his anti- government protests.
On Thursday, he led about 18,000 striking garment workers and anti-government activists through streets in capital Phnom Penh to press Prime Minister Hun Sen to step down and hold a re-election.
"If the Cambodia National Rescue Party comes to power, we will increase the worker's wage to 160 U.S. dollars per month," Sam Rainsy promised with protesting workers.
The Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia (GMAC) on Thursday asked all its members to temporarily stop production this week for concerns over security and safety after pro-opposition workers staged strikes against the low wage hike.
"GMAC executives strongly suggest all members stop operation for a whole of this week and let the workers stay home," said a GMAC's statement sent to its members by an e-mail.
"If the workers are working in the factories, some bad elements among demonstrators will go around and destroy your factories gates and properties in order to force the workers out to join the demonstration to demand the wage of 160 U.S. dollars," it said.
"It is safer if there are no workers in the factories."
The statement said GMAC is working with the government on how to deal with the situation.
Defense Minister Tea Banh on Thursday urged all protesters to respect the rights of others and threatened to take legal action if they tried to cause social instability.
"According to the nation's constitution, everyone has his/her own rights in politics," he told reporters. "But one must use his/ her rights with the respect for the rights of the others."
"We will not allow anyone to create social unrest," he said.
The country's political row has persisted after July's poll results showed that Hun Sen's ruling party won a majority of vote with 68 parliamentary seats against 55 seats for the Sam Rainsy's opposition party.
The opposition refused to accept the outcome and has boycotted parliament since then.
Hun Sen said last Friday that he would neither step down nor call a re-vote because he has done nothing wrong.