Two Cambodian trade union members were detained this morning (17 September) and soldiers mobilised as garment workers campaigned for a rise in the minimum wage.

Human rights group LICADHO said more than 1,000 workers gathered outside garment factories in the Canadia Industrial Park, demanding a minimum wage of US$177 a month, up from the current $100. Military soldiers were stationed along Veng Sreng road and inside the park.

Two members of IndustriAll Global Union affiliate the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers' Democratic Union (C.CAWDU) were arrested by police outside the Kamchay Mea factory, but were released after several hours in custody, LICADHO added.

A group of international labour organisations, including IndustriAll, UNI Global Union and ITUC last week planned the day of action. It is the second to have been organised by unions, after a similar event condemned the violence associated with garment worker strikes in January and the imprisonment of 23 workers in February.

The demonstrations come ahead of plans by the Cambodian Labour Advisory Committee to reconvene its wage board at the start of October - with an expected announcement of an increase in the minimum wage.

Trade unions and workers insist that this must be US$177 a month, whilst the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC) proposes a minimal increase to US$115. Unions have rejected this as not being sufficient to cover basic living costs.

The Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC), meanwhile, is calling on retailers, including Swedish fashion apparel chain H&M - one of the largest buyers from Cambodia - to commit to a minimum wage increase with immediate effect.

CCC said the current minimum wage is just 25% of an estimated living wage in the country, adding that brands can "show leadership" and "take the important step of increasing the wages garment workers receive".

"Brands continue to squeeze the already small profit margins," said Ath Thorn, president of Cambodian trade union C.CAWDU. "It is high time brands take their responsibility and tackle the issue which lies at the heart of our protests: a living wage. The wage hike to $177 is one step into that direction."