Four hundred demonstrators gathered in front of the Ministry of Interior on Monday, saying they were cheated out of $20 to $250 each when falsely promised election staff jobs from three employment associations.
The demonstration and request for action from the Interior Ministry and the National Election Committee came two days after some members of the same group ransacked the offices of one of the associations that allegedly duped them.
“What was he thinking?” asked Meas Serey, 23, who gave $81 in January to a man who directed one of the associations. “Did he want to help us or cheat us?”
The protestors dragged some of the employment association signs to the ministry. One read: “Organization to Prepare Free and Fair Election in Cambodia.” The associations were said to be under the umbrella of the National Federation Organization.
Kong Sophal, 24, who said he and three friends gave $250 for the promise of election work, said Monday’s demonstrators represent only a fraction of the victims. He claimed as many as 15,000 people have been cheated nationwide by the three associations.
Sok Khoeun, deputy chief of the technical department for one of the three groups, the Toprum community development organization, denied that the association is cheating any of its 4,710 members.
“We will find a job for them to do, because we have land in Kompong Speu, Kompong Chhnang and Battambang provinces for development,” he said.
Nhea Sokhum, director of the association ransacked over the weekend—Cambodian Community Development of Veteran Affairs—has fled, police say.
The demonstrators showed documents that said the associations were approved by top Interior and NEC officials.
But both You Hockry, co-minister of Interior, and Prum Sokha, director-general of Interior, said Monday that although the ministry approved the registration of the associations, it isn’t responsible for their activities.
“The papers were OK,” said Prum Sokha, not elaborating on what the papers said. “We approve only the registration. If they activate something in the wrong way, we have no means to control their activity. It’s the responsibility of the NEC.”
Prum Sokha also said he heard similar allegations of promises for election jobs from a relative in the countryside several months ago, and forwarded the information to the NEC.
NEC officials couldn’t immediately be reached for comment Monday. (Additional reporting by Jeff Smith)