Red Cross Denies Forced Lottery Sales

The Cambodian Red Cross denied Wednesday that civil servants were forced to buy lottery tickets to boost its annual fund-raiser this month, as alleged by several teachers and government employees in Kompong Thom province.

Red Cross First Deputy Sec­retary-General Pum Chantinie, however, acknowledged that some employees may have been forced to play the lottery, but said the fault lay with teachers and civil servants who could not say “no.”

“They listen to TV, listen to the radio, they listen about democracy, but why don’t they say no? It’s hard to believe,” she said.

As part of an annual fund-raiser in Kompong Thom, 100,000 tickets were divided up among the provincial departments for either sale or purchase, but the Red Cross did not force anyone to buy a lottery ticket or the 3,000 riel fee for a yearlong membership of the organization, she said.

“We have no right to force anyone to be a part of our organization,” Pum Chantinie said.

Many teachers said this week that they were pressured into buying tickets or that money was docked from their salaries to support Kompong Thom’s Red Cross branch, which is headed by Nhem Sophany, the wife of CPP Central Committee member and National Assembly second deputy president Nguon Nhel.

Opposition parliamentarian for Kompong Thom province, Sok Pheng, said on Monday that he had received several complaints from civil servants who were forced to buy tickets.

The Cambodian Red Cross, run by Bun Rany, the wife of Prime Minister Hun Sen, is prohibited to coerce contributions to its fund as part of its membership of the international body.

The organization conducted its annual fund-raiser in each province in the run-up to International Red Cross Day on May 8, but preliminary figures show that the first-ever lotteries in Kompong Thom and Pursat provinces were runaway successes.

Kompong Thom’s lottery sold about 94 percent of 100,000 tickets, priced at 1,000 riel each, according to figures from the province’s Red Cross branch. Ticket sales totaled about $23,000, far surpassing the office’s annual operating budget of $15,000. The runaway-success lottery figures show that 30 of 41 government departments in Kompong Thom sold every lottery ticket they were given.

The Pursat lottery sold fewer tickets but the tickets were three times the price, and earned about the same amount as Kompong Thom province, those figures indicate.

The windfall in Kompong Thom and Pursat already has its admirers and Red Cross branches in Kompong Cham and Kompong Speu provinces are planning lotteries for next year’s fund-raiser, Pum Chantinie said.

But many teachers complain that they carried that lottery success unwillingly, alleging that if they failed to sell or buy three lottery tickets, then the 3,000 riel was subtracted from their notoriously low salaries.

Other government departments may have also forced tickets sales upon their staff.

Um Sok, director of Kompong Thom’s culture department, said that his 100 staff had to buy up the 300 tickets he was given.

“They have to buy. This is for the humanitarian cause,” he said, adding that the price of tickets had been taken out of some employees’ salaries.

Pum Chantinie, however, said she believed that while a few school directors or department heads might have forced tickets upon their staff, it was not a province-wide policy. She could not identify the school directors or department heads, and she stopped short of condemning them.

“We have to appreciate their effort,” she said.

 

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