In These Times describes these “Special Economic Zones” where unions are practically illegal and regulations of any kind are minimal.

I’m thinking of an article I read in the early 1990s reporting that businesses were leaving Taiwan for mainland China which was more business friendly.  Democracy is not always “business friendly” and Taiwan is pretty much a social democracy.  The article concluded by noting, “Both Chiang Kai Shek and Mao Tse Tung are rolling in their graves.”

According to a source in civil society consulted by lawmakers in the planning stages of the 2005 SEZ Act, the Cambodian government was initially trying to carve out exemptions from labor law. The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, tells In These Timesthat lawyers “were approached by the Ministry of Commerce for technical advice and one of the things was, well, how can we make the zones union-free?”

Tola Moeun, executive director of the Center for Alliance of Labor and Human Rights, also in Phnom Penh, confirms the government was planning to exempt the zones from labor law: “No freedom of association, no freedom for collective bargaining and so on. No right to strike. But after the reaction from the unions, from the development partners, from the import countries—like Europe and the U.S. and so on—then the government stepped back their plan.”

Instead, with strict control of who can enter an SEZ and impunity for organizer layoffs, it seems Cambodia simply made them de facto union-free.