A high-ranking official in the Free Trade Union of Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia has split from the group to form his own union.
Phourng Montry, former deputy secretary-general, said Monday a long-term conflict with federation President Chea Vichea led him to create the Independent Union Federation. He said 3,000 Free Trade Union members will follow him. “Chea Vichea is an irresponsible leader who doesn’t have the ability to control the followers,” Phourng Montry said.
He complained of power struggles within the union and accused Chea Vichea of taking credit for his hard work. But Chea Vichea said Monday that Phourng Montry was fired for accepting bribes from a factory.
On Sept 29, Chea Vichea wrote a formal letter informing factories that Phourng Montry had been relieved of his duties. Phourng Montry was fired following a majority vote by the union’s central committee. The vote came after the discovery of a $1,200 check written in Phourng Montry’s name. Chea Vichea declined to name the factory that issued the check. Phourng Montry said Monday that he did not know about the check.
Opposition leader Sam Rainsy founded the Free Trade Union in 1996, forcing workers’ issues to the front lines of political and social campaigns. Chea Vichea has since openly used his members to campaign for the opposition party.
Phourng Montry said Monday he did not have political support for his new union and did not know whether he would work with the CPP. “I will inform after, if I succeed,” he said.
Cambodian Union Federation President Choun Momthol said he would welcome Phourng Montry into his pro-CPP union. But he also criticized the Free Trade Union’s breakaway faction.
“Separation—I don’t support it. This way, the union becomes weak,” he said. (Additional reporting by Kate Woodsome)