Cambodia’s garment industry, which is responsible for over 80% of the country’s total exports, is notorious for its frequent cases of labor exploitation and worker abuse. Garment workers, of whom 90% are female, are forced to endure intimidation tactics, bribes, and short-term contracts -- all of which work to prevent unionization.
Phnom Penh, Cambodia, is situated on the confluence of four rivers: the Upper and Lower Mekong rivers, the Bassac River and the Tonle Sap river. The surrounding area is flat and low-lying, subject to annual flooding. Natural lakes formed as the rivers changed course over time and communities grew up around the edges of these lakes, using them for fishing and aquatic agriculture.
The French Protectorate of Cambodia began in 1863, but it wasn't until 1906, with the coronation of King Sisowath that the French took significant control of governance and cultural life. Even so, this loss of self-determination was mostly felt by the elites in the capital. However, anti-French sentiment gradually grew into a revolutionary movement.
In the 1980's, after the Khmer Rouge lost control of much of Cambodia, displaced people flowed back into the capital city of Phnom Penh. Returnees created new settlements and villages when vacant housing was no longer available. One group of returnees consisted of traditional musicians looking for a central location to resume teaching their art. This group of musicians moved into the Bassac Theatre close to the Bassac and Mekong Rivers. Gradually more returnees gathered around this community and in 2005 the Dey Krahorm village consisted of an estimated 800 families.
Mu Sochua fled Cambodia during the genocide under Pol Pot in the 1970’s. When she returned to her homeland in 1989 as a mother of three, Sochua began a tireless effort to further women’s rights in Cambodia. At the start of her political career she served as Advisor of Women’s Affairs to the Prime Minister, and from 1998 to 2004 was elected to Parliament and also served as Minister of Women’s and Veterans’ Affairs. In 2004, Sochua changed directions slightly by joining the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP), the leading political opposition in Cambodia.
Between 2008 and 2010, the Cambodian economy experienced extreme hardship. In 2008, the Cambodian economy began to suffer from high inflation, which caused food prices to soar to new, expensive levels. Workers from one of Cambodia’s major industries, the garment industry, were left especially distraught.