Human Rights and the Garment Industry in Contemporary Cambodia

56 Pages Posted: 25 Aug 2006

See all articles by John Alexander Hall

John Alexander Hall

Chapman University, The Dale E. Fowler School of Law


This article examines the labor laws, economy and union movement in Cambodia during the 1990's. Based on field work in Phnom Penh, it focuses on the labor and legal consequences of the rapid growth of the export-oriented garment industry in Cambodia during the 1990's. From a mere handful of small facilities in 1994, Phnom Penh had by the end of the decade almost 250 modern factories employing over 200,000 young women who had migrated to the city from rural provinces. Foreign - predominantly Chinese - businesses set up production in Cambodia in order to gain access to the quota-protected U.S. and EU markets. Despite a comprehensive and modern Labor Code, those laws protecting workers rights were at best inadequately enforced, at worst flatly ignored. By the late 1990's Cambodia's garment factories suffered from a range of labor abuses, including inadequate working conditions, forced overtime, and dishonesty over pay. The article documents the role of Cambodia's fledgling labor movement, which includes independent unions as well as so-called "paper unions" set up and controlled by factory management. The paper includes a brief discussion of the Cambodia-US trade agreement.

Suggested Citation

Hall, John Alexander, Human Rights and the Garment Industry in Contemporary Cambodia. Stanford Journal of International Law, Vol. 36, No. 1, pp. 119, 2000, Available at SSRN:

John Alexander Hall (Contact Author)

Chapman University, The Dale E. Fowler School of Law ( email )

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