On Friday January 17, Khmer-American artist/activist Kat Eng set up a sewing machine in front of H&M’s Times Square flagship location in NYC. The eight hour performance was a response to the brutal military crackdown of striking garment workers in Cambodia earlier this month. The project’s title, “Less Than Three”, refers to the earnings of the average Cambodian garment worker, whose $80 monthly salary breaks down to 2.66 dollars a day. In solidarity with the oppressed workers, the artist elaborately stitched together 2 and 2/3 actual dollar bills over the course of a workday. The performance aimed to condemn Cambodia’s unacceptable act of state violence and to confront consumers with their role in the narrative.
The Cambodian garment industry has faced increasing unrest in recent months following the highly disputed re-election of Prime Minister Hun Sen who has been in power since 1985. His opponent, Sam Rainsy, ran on a platform of widespread reform, including a promise to double garment workers’ monthly salary to $160 – deemed by supporters to be a reasonable living wage. Earlier this month, hundreds of thousands of workers joined a strike to demand safer working conditions and a raise to the amount promised by Rainsy. Over 400 factories were forced to halt operations. The Cambodian government responded harshly, ordering military police to violently disperse demonstrations. On January 3rd, Officers armed with AK-47s and pistols shot rounds of live ammunition at the crowd, killing five and injuring dozens.
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This action joins the the Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD) call to a Global Week of Action against Gov’t Crackdown on Cambodian Protesters.
Learn more about the Less Than Three project at: www.upsrei.com.
Artist statement from Kat Eng: https://upsrei.com/2014/01/15/lessthanthree/
Eng’s personal artwork, illustrations, and political imagery: www.facebook.com/inkateng
In Largest Protest Since Polls, Cambodians Demand Re-Election – Radio Free Asia