This report is based on seven weeks of interviews in Cambodia conducted between November and December 2013, and March and April 2014; phone interviews in August 2014, October 2014, and January 2015; and secondary research between October 2013 and February 2015.

Interviews took place in Phnom Penh, Kandal, Kampong Speu, Kampong Cham, and Prey Veng provinces.

Human Rights Watch researchers interviewed 342 people, including:

  • A total of 270 garment workers including 40 factory-level union representatives from 71 garment factories and 2 footwear factories. We conducted 25 of those interviews one-on-one with the workers; the rest stemmed from 37 group interviews. About 80 percent of the workers we interviewed were women; 11 workers were children below age 18.
  • Two independent confederation representatives, 10 independent union federation leaders, 11 labor rights activists, and 2 representatives from the Arbitration Council.
  • Two mothers of children working in a garment factory.
  • Two factory infirmary workers and 2 private health providers.
  • Twenty-five home-based workers who did seasonal work for garment factories.
  • Five factory representatives, including 2 office-bearers of the Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia (GMAC).
  • Individual and group interviews with 9 Cambodian government officials from the Labor Ministry; and interviews with 2 former government labor inspectors.

We interviewed some workers, union representatives, and Labor Ministry officials multiple times.

To supplement formal interviews, Human Rights Watch had informal conversations with more than 25 others with relevant knowledge, including labor rights experts and staff from local and international NGOs, the ILO, donor countries, and the UN.

We identified workers to interview with the assistance of local NGOs and independent union federations, as well as via chain referrals from workers themselves.

Worker interviews took place after their factory workday, during the lunch hour, or on Sundays, their day off. The interviews were conducted in local NGO offices, garment workers’ homes, or in restaurants or shacks around the factory that workers identified as safe. No interviews were conducted in the presence of workers’ employers, such as factory managers or other administrative staff.

All participants were informed of the purpose of the interview, its voluntary nature, and the ways the information would be used. Each orally consented to be interviewed. Interviews lasted between thirty minutes and two hours and were mostly conducted in Khmer with translation into English. We primarily used female interpreters. Interviewees did not receive any material compensation. Some workers were reimbursed the cost of transport to and from the interview.

The names of all workers interviewed for this report have been withheld or substituted with pseudonyms in the interest of the security of the individuals concerned. All incidents cited in the report occurred during or after 2013, unless expressly stated otherwise.

Factory names have been withheld to minimize the risk to the workers we interviewed. We assigned numbers 1 to 73 to each of the factories where we interviewed one or more workers. Letters A to Q have been used to label another 17 factories (both direct suppliers and subcontractors) that workers named in their accounts, but from which we have no worker interviews. 

Between March and September 2014, Human Rights Watch sent two letters each to six international clothing and footwear brands that source from Cambodia for additional information about their approaches to labor rights in the supply chain, to present preliminary findings of our research, and to request meetings with company officials, as described below:

  • Adidas Group (Adidas) provided detailed written responses to both letters, and met with Human Rights Watch in Bangkok in September 2014.
  • The Armani Group (Armani) did not respond to any letters or several follow-up letters.
  • Gap Inc. (Gap) responded in writing to both letters and a Gap representative had a phone discussion with Human Rights Watch in October 2014.
  • H&M Hennes & Mauritz AB (H&M) provided a detailed written response to our first letter, responded in writing to the second letter, and met with Human Rights Watch in Bangkok in September 2014.
  • Loblaw Cos. Ltd. (which owns Joe Fresh) did not respond to our first letter or to several follow-up letters. After we sent the second letter, they responded in writing to both letters.
  • Marks and Spencer did not respond to our first letter or to several follow-up letters. After we sent the second letter, they responded in writing to both letters. They declined our invitation for a discussion and offered to respond in writing to any additional questions but did not respond to a follow-up email as of February 11, 2015.

This report is not a thorough investigation of any one brand’s entire supply chain. Not all brands named in this report were sourcing from each of the 73 factories. Human Rights Watch does not have complete brand information for every factory, which can frequently change.

Of the 73 factories:

  • Based on information publicly disclosed by H&M in 2013 and 2014, 11 factories were authorized manufacturers for H&M.
  • Based on information publicly disclosed by Adidas and information that Adidas gave Human Rights Watch about its past suppliers, seven factories were authorized manufacturers.
  • Marks and Spencer, Gap, Armani, and Joe Fresh have neither publicly disclosed the names of factories they source from nor furnished the information when we requested it. Based on information gathered by Human Rights Watch, thirteen factories appeared to produce regularly for Marks and Spencer, seven factories appeared to produce regularly for Joe Fresh, five factories produced for Gap, and one factory produced regularly for Armani.

In order to reflect the perspectives of factories in this report, we emailed questionnaires to 58 factories using contact information listed on the GMAC member database. These factories were chosen at random and included direct suppliers and subcontractors. Two factories responded—one in writing and the second through a meeting. 

In November 2014, Human Rights Watch wrote to the Ministry of Labor and the Ministry of Commerce, outlining our findings and seeking a written response.  By publication we received a response only from the Labor Ministry, which is reflected in the report.

Human Rights Watch correspondence and replies by brands and government ministries can be found at http://www.hrw.org.

Human Rights Watch also gathered information about which brands were produced in factories wherever this information was relevant and available from independent federations—the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Union (CCAWDU), the National Independent Federation of Textile Unions in Cambodia (NIFTUC), the Collective Union of Movement of Workers (CUMW), the Cambodian Alliance of Trade Unions (CATU), and a local nongovernmental organization—the Community Legal Education Center (CLEC). We were also able to access the Worker Information Center labels database from 2012 and 2013.