Help Send Kat Eng to Interview Frontlines Activists in Cambodia

A road blockade constructed by Areng Valley activists to prevent developers and equipment from entering the area.
A road blockade constructed by Areng Valley activists to prevent developers and equipment from entering the area.

Help send Earth First! Journal‘s Kat Eng to the Areng Valley in the Cardamoms Protected Forest in southwest Cambodia to interview frontline environmental activists about their struggle to protect their home from the Chinese-funded Sinohydro, a hydropower dam that threatens to destroy the pristine ecosystem and displace 1,500 indigenous people. This interview will be featured in the upcoming Brigid 2015 Earth First! Journal. The remote Areng Valley is located in the 400,000-hectare Central Cardamoms Protected Forest, one the country’s last pristine natural forests in Koh Kong province. The valley is home to an ethnic Chong community that has resided in the area for centuries. It also contains the habitats of rare and endangered animal and fish species, including the Asian Arowana, Asian Elephant and Siamese Crocodile (Yeophantong, 2014). Continue reading “Help Send Kat Eng to Interview Frontlines Activists in Cambodia”

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Response to H&M on “Cheap” and “Ethical” Fashion

H&M Conscious Collection LiesIn response to Helena Helmersson, H&M’s head of sustainability in her conversation with Reuters, H&M says fashion can be cheap and ethical:

Sustainable industry is an oxymoron. I don’t believe there is an ethical approach to consumption- the global industrial complex depends upon the exploitation of oppressed peoples around the world. H&M’s claim to be a “positive impact” and a welcomed “alternative” is unfounded. While the garment industry perhaps offers more reliable employment, these factories bear no semblance to ideal “democratic” workplaces. If H&M truly cares about workers rights, why don’t they address the striking workers demands?

The problem goes beyond the issue of factory standards. The reason that so many seek employment in these factories is they often have no other choice. In Cambodia, between land grabs, displacement by environmental destruction (damming rivers for hydro-electric power), and the serious deficit of accessible education, many are forced to live in the shadows of cities to either toil through factory life or become prostitutes.

While sourcing products from sweatshop factories around Southeast Asia, white models on a tropical backdrop sell H&M's Conscious Collection: fashion for "conscious customers"
White models on a tropical backdrop sell H&M’s Conscious Collection

Consumerism is an insatiable machine fueled by full-throttle resource extraction. Although H&M is the worlds leading organic cotton buyer, organic cotton only amounts to eight percent of H&M’s total cotton use.

“Cutting water use to grow cotton, improving energy efficiency or using fewer chemicals” means genetically modifying crops grown in massive monocultures, and continuing to use “toxic chemicals that environmentalists say can pollute rivers near factories.”
Green-washed products and fair trade deals are empty corporate promises.

H&M Garment Factory in Cambodia - PHOTO BY AP
H&M Garment Factory in Cambodia – PHOTO BY AP

My politics are hard-line anti-capitalist. There is no solution for this system- buying what we think are ‘socially-conscious clothes’ will not stop the ecological crisis we face. Paying the workers higher wages only further indentures their lives to industrial servitude.

Put yourself in the place of a garment worker- would you want to spend your life toiling for 9-plus hours a day with no way to move forward or work on things you actually care about? Their lives are not their own. This is the true cost of cheap fashion.

Al Jazeera America – Renee Lewis

HM Cambodia
On Jan. 17, Brooklyn-based Khmer-American artist Kat Eng, dressed as a factory worker, sat on the sidewalk in front of an H&M retail store — which sources some of its clothing from Cambodian garment factories.Eng sewed dollar bills to bring light to the fact that Cambodian garment workers make less than $3 per day.The activist said her silent performance was also a response to the violent government crackdown on the workers’ protests in early January.“The murder of at least four people was an unacceptable act of state violence, and I personally had to respond,” Eng told Al Jazeera. “What they’re fighting against is a system of exploitation — it’s important to know that their labor, their health and their lives are the real price of cheap clothing.”

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</3 : Less Than Three

smalldollar

hm
January 17 2014

On Friday morning, Khmer-American artist Kat Eng set up a sewing machine in front of H&M’s Times Square location. The eight-hour performance was a response to the brutal military crackdown of striking garment workers in Cambodia. In early January, 500,000 workers joined a strike to demand a livable wage. Over 400 factories were forced to shut down operation. The government ordered military police fired upon demonstrators, killing five and injuring dozens. In solidarity with the oppressed workers the artist worked the entire day, stitching together 2 and 2/3 actual dollar bills, the daily salary of garment workers.

“</3 is not a campaign for pity or charity. 
It is an act of solidarity with the women who labor under the boot of multinational corporations and their collapsing industrial machines, women who literally create immense value with their own callused hands yet remain in poverty.
It is a message to consumer culture: behind every stitch is a hand, a face, a person.
It is a critique of working class commodification and the brand industrial complex. I am not here to list the names of every corporation engaged in exploitation in Cambodia- though I will. I am here to meet you, the consumer, and to be consumed by you and to rest in the pit of your stomach. To be explicit, to haunt you while you shop.”

Less Than Three is a response to the Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD) call to a Global Week of Action against Gov’t Crackdown on Cambodian Protesters.

Note: H&M is just one of many corporations that source their goods from Cambodia but has faced increasing scrutiny over scandals in recent years:
Second Cambodian factory collapse injures 23 workers who produce clothes for H&M 

‘Forced overtime’ claim in H&M mass fainting
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Installation - "Lindsay Lohan, My Thighs" - a 6 hour installation in which a couch faces a television with the film 'Mean Girls' on loop. Projected on to the viewers, who are invited to sit, is the film 'The Killing Fields'
Installation – “Lindsay Lohan, My Thighs” – a 6 hour installation in which a couch faces a television with the film ‘Mean Girls’ on loop. Projected on to the viewers, who are invited to sit, is the film ‘The Killing Fields’

2014     2013     2012     2011     2010