Delays Lead Workers to Protest

Cambodian construction workers, whose planned trips to Athens to work on 2004 Summer Olympics projects have been delayed for months, gathered at the Ministry of Social Affairs Wednesday and demanded their deposits back.

The workers paid $500 each to ensure their employment in Greece and their return to Cam­bodia. They were scheduled to leave in August.

“We have lost hope because we have been waiting for several months,” said Mean Phat, 42, of Kandal province, one of more than 100 workers who protested Wednesday. More than 1,200 workers signed up to work in Greece.

For the Olympic project, they had been promised $500 to $2,500 per month, plus room and board for up to three years by the Canadian construction company JRN International. In Cambodia, construction workers earn about $60 a month.

The workers said they had borrowed money from relatives and high-interest lenders to put down their deposits. “I want my deposit back so I can pay back my lender, or else I’ll have to pay a lot of interest,” Mean Phat said.

In addition to the deposits, each man spent $45 for a health exam and $70 to have his passport processed, they said.

Huo Vuthy, director of the employment department at the ministry, told the workers he would contact Cambodia Con­sultant Associates, the company that collected the deposits, and urge that the money be returned. “The ministry will try its best to talk to the company to return the de­po­sits for you all,” he said.

Chhim Tittha Vong, general man­­ager of KCT Construction and Tours, the local contractor, could not be reached for com­ment. His wife said he was sick.

In September, Chhim Tittha Vong said worldwide instability contributed to the postponement of the workers’ departure.

JRN had originally planned to fly the workers to Greece on char­­tered airplanes, he said. But that would have required flying over Afghanistan, which the US has been bombing in its war against terrorism.


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