Chhorn Sokha, vice-president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Union, was expelled from the coalition on Sunday. The decision was made by an internal committee set up to look into allegations that she had taken money from a government minister.
According to committee member Chum Chamm, 25 of the 30 members voted for her expulsion after establishing that, while she was president of the coalition, Chhorn Sokha had allegedly taken payments totaling $2,500 from Minister of Social Affairs Ith Sam Heng.
Chhorn Sokha allegedly received the money over a 10-month period between mid-2003 and mid-2004, coalition Deputy Secretary-General Chum Chamm said.
Ith Sam Heng said Sunday that he was too busy to answer questions. Chhorn Sokha asserted her innocence, saying the committee had no proof of the alleged payments.
She also claimed the investigation into her dealings was in retaliation for her accusations that coalition President Ath Thon and Second Vice-President Ek Sopheakdei had allegedly embezzled union funds that she believed may have totaled $60,000 last year.
“They only wanted to fire me because I investigated their expenses in 2005,” Chhorn Sokha said.
“What they did is to hide what I discovered,” she said.
Chhorn Sokha did admit to accepting a one-time payment of $250 in 2003 to transport 700 garment workers to Apsara Television studios, where they were filmed receiving T-shirts and 10,000 riel, or $2.50, from Ith Sam Heng shortly before the 2003 national elections.
Ath Thon refuted Chhorn Sokha’s allegations, saying that the union could not have lost $60,000 when it only took in $10,000 per year.
“The committee was the one that fired her,” Ath Thon said. “It was decided by a vote on the evidence,” he said.
Chum Chamm claimed that the committee had testimony from four witnesses supporting its conclusions.