Chhorn Sokha, the former vice-president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Union, who was expelled last month from the union after being accused of taking money from a government official, has been hired by the International Republican Institute, officials said Wednesday.
Chhorn Sokha said she was given an assistant program officer position at the international branch of the US Republican Party in Phnom Penh on March 1.
“I am in charge of the relationship with the unions,” she said, adding that she was pleased with her new job. “IRI doesn’t have programs with the unions yet, so now I just collect information about the unions,” she said.
Chhorn Sokha was expelled from the CCAWDU after being accused of taking payments totaling $2,500 from Minister of Social Affairs Ith Sam Heng between 2003 and 2004.
She has admitted to taking a one-time payment of $250 to transport garment workers to a television studio where they were filmed receiving T-shirts and small cash payments from the CPP minister prior to the 2003 national election.
However, she has claimed the investigation into her dealings was in retaliation for her allegations that the union’s president, Ath Thon, and second vice-president, Ek Sopheakdei, had embezzled union funds that she believed may have totaled $60,000.
On Wednesday she accused Ath Thon of trying to end her career.
“What Mr Ath Thon did to me was to destroy my future, but he was not successful,” she said, adding that the union still owes her salary for February and that she is seeking compensation for her removal.
Ath Thon said the union was happy to be rid of Chhorn Sokha.
“I don’t know what is the principle of the US NGO,” he said. “At our place, we don’t much trust such a dishonest person.”
Alex Sutton, IRI resident country director, said the union’s allegations against his new employee were baseless.
“She has expertise, she is very talented and hard working when it comes to labor activism and human rights,” he said.