Construction Official Sacked From Gov’t Post

An official with the company that charged hundreds of Cam­bodian laborers $500 each for high-paying work in Greece, and then never delivered the jobs, has been fired from his government position by royal decree.

Pok Yuthea, legal adviser to the labor agency Cambodian Con­sultant and Associates, was sacked as adviser to Senate Presi­dent Chea Sim.

About 100 of the workers staked out Pok Yuthea’s residential compound in Tonle Bassac commune, Chamkar Mon district, on Wednesday night hoping to catch him and personally demand their money back.

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court has issued a search warrant for Pok Yuthea’s house. The workers claim police have deliberately put off performing the search.

Last August, CCA promised 1,200 workers jobs with the Canadian-based construction company JRN International Corp on construction projects for the 2004 Olympics in Athens. The workers paid $500 each as a deposit to process the paperwork for the jobs.

But no jobs came—and their money has disappeared.

In front of Pok Yuthea’s house Thursday, the crowd swelled to 400. Workers hung posters demanding their deposits back, but said they would not sleep in front of the house again Thurs­day night because armed soldiers had appeared to patrol the grounds.

The workers had not spotted Pok Yuthea, and some said they suspect police spirited him away and allowed him to escape.

Many of the workers say they have lost their homes, farms and even their marriages because of the missing deposits, often borrowed at high interest rates.

In recent months, they have protested at Prime Minister Hun Sen’s residence and in front of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor, which they say helped organize the failed jobs program.

CCA said recently it had already repaid more than 100 workers. But fewer than 50 of the protesters said they have been reimbursed.

“I appeal to King Sihanouk and Samdech Hun Sen to solve this problem,” said worker Chea Vanny, 28. “This is all we need to bring us out of poverty. My house was confiscated because of debt.”

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