Inclusion of Pro-Government Union at Conference Opposed

Two workers unions filed complaints with the International Labor Organization against the government Saturday for choosing a pro-government union to participate in an upcoming ILO conference, union officials said Sunday.

The Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Union and the Free Trade Union of Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia sent letters to ILO Director General Juan Somovia in Geneva last week voicing their ob­jection to the Cambodian Union Federation’s upcoming par­ticipation in the June labor conference in Geneva.

CUF will attend the conference on behalf of the country’s 11 federations because it has the most representative unions throughout the industry, said Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor adviser Thach San. He could not say how many members belong to each union.

“This choice is an insult to Cambodian workers and activist unions because the CUF supports companies and the government, not workers,” CCAWDU President Chhorn Sokha wrote April 12.

She said the CUF uses violence to frighten workers and other unions and often supports the government and factory management. Company unions are illegal according to the Cambodian labor law, Thach San said.

Chhorn Sokha called on the ILO to recognize the Cambodian government’s fraudulence and to remove the CUF’s credentials for the 2003 conference.

CUF President Chhoun Mom Thol said Sunday that his union is affiliated with the CPP, but denied all allegations made against him.

“My union is [Prime Minister] Hun Sen’s union. All my union members will vote for Hun Sen,” he said. “Chhorn Sokha and [Free Trade Union President] Chea Vichea are Sam Rainsy Party and they are upset I won.”

Chhorn Sokha denied any party affiliation with the opposition, calling her union “independent.”

Chea Vichea said his workers generally support the Sam Rainsy Party.

“I am not a part of the Sam Rainsy Party, but my trade union wants to support him,” Chea Vichea said. “I will lobby my workers to vote for him.”

Chea Vichea also filed complaints against the government.

“The Royal Cambodian government again [has] corrupted its selection process in order to bring an anti-workers and government-controlled union to the June ILO conference,” Chea Vichea wrote April 25.

Thach San said Sunday that the ministry’s selection of the CUF was free and fair, since all of the country’s unions had the opportunity to choose a conference representative.

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