Morn Channa traveled from Phnom Penh to her native Kompong Chhnang province on Saturday using the $30 salary advance provided by her garment factory employer so she could vote in Sunday’s election.
“I spent my own money. I do not regret this expense because I am a Cambodian citizen, so I have to select the person I want to lead my commune,” said the 31-year-old employee at Phnom Penh’s PCCS Garment Limited factory.
Several hundred thousand garment factory workers traveled to the provinces to vote, union leaders said.
Chhuon Mom Thol, president of the CPP-affiliated Cambodia Union Federation, estimated that 90 to 95 percent of the nearly 300,000 workers traveled to the countryside; Free Trade Union President Chea Mony put the figure at 70 to 80 percent.
Chea Mony applauded factories for their apparently universal compliance with government instructions to give laborers time off to vote, but said many factories had not provided sufficient advances.
“With $5 or $10, for them it is impossible to pay for the trip, so they decide to stay in Phnom Penh,” Chea Mony said. Only around 5 percent of the factories gave their workers advances of $20 to $30, he said.
Vann Sou Ieng, president of the Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia, said that while he recommended that factories help employees weather travel expenses, “giving advances will depend on each company’s financial situation.” He called the factories’ offer of time off a “moral duty” but added: “In Cambodia there are too many holidays…. If we could exchange this day off for another holiday, it would be perfect.”
SRP Secretary-General Mu Sochua said many garment factory workers are pro-SRP as they are young, live in the city and have access to information.
Morn Channa declined to say who she would vote for, but said she picked a party who would best serve her and Cambodia. “I will be back to vote for the 2008 general election, because it is so important to select the prime minister,” she added.
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