To Win Election, CPP Seeks to Win Party Merchandise Race

At the Daiy Ek Silk Screen shop in Phnom Penh on Tuesday, Keo Rida and two female colleagues sat on the floor, cutting stickers and counting flags sporting the logo of the CPP.

—Commune Election 2017—

The shop just down the street from Independence Monument started printing CPP shirts six months ago, said Ms. Rida, the owner’s daughter.

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Surrounded by CPP-branded merchandise, women at the Daiy Ek Silk Screen Shop in Phnom Penh work on signs on Tuesday before campaigning starts for the June 4 commune elections. (Brendan O’Byrne/The Cambodia Daily)

“That way, if they want to take them right away, we have them ready,” she said.

With the start of commune election campaigning just three days away, the women are busier than ever, surrounded by piles of ruling party-branded merchandise.

Business has been good this month for Daiy Ek. Ms. Rida said she didn’t know for sure how many shirts she’d printed—she had been “too busy to count”—but estimated that it was nearly 100,000 shirts, or about 90 percent of the store’s business this month.

Embroidery and printing shops in the heart of the capital on Tuesday were packed with sacks upon sacks of shirts, hats and flags sporting the ruling party’s logo of an angelic and haloed tevada spirit. Every day for about the past week, ruling party officials from around the country have come to the stores to buy thousands of items at a time, loading them into the trunks of SUVs and taking them back to the provinces, according to several employees.

The campaign period might not begin until Saturday, but the race to buy and distribute party apparel is already in full swing—and the CPP appears to be winning this one, judging by the three shops visited on Tuesday.

“We’re selling a lot now to the [CPP],” said Cheut Chenda, owner of Angkor Tep embroidery shop, a small business located on Norodom Boulevard.

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Women at the Daiy Ek Silk Screen Shop in Phnom Penh make CPP-branded apparel on Tuesday. (Brendan O’Byrne/The Cambodia Daily)

“When it’s close to elections, we have a lot of customers,” said Ms. Chenda, estimating that her store had printed 10,000 campaign shirts, all for the ruling party. Each shirt costs about $1.50.

Based on numbers provided by employees at the three stores in Phnom Penh on Tuesday, the CPP is set to spend at least $200,000 there on party apparel alone—and the total figure for merchandise spending is likely to be much higher.

CPP spokesman Sok Eysan said on Tuesday that he didn’t have an estimate of the party’s total expenditure because provincial-and commune-level working groups were responsible for purchases.

CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann also said it was up to local officials to buy election gear. “The CNRP central party does not provide any T-shirts,” he said.

Heng Chito, a designer at Independence Monument Printing and Embroidery, said he remembered 2012’s commune elections being a lot less busy.

“Business wasn’t strong [last election], but now it’s very strong,” Mr. Chito said.

He estimated his store had made between 20,000 and 30,000 shirts and an equal number of hats for the ruling party.

“This month, it’s almost all party business,” Mr. Chito said. “It’s almost all CPP gear.”

At Daiy Ek, Ms. Rida has taken some orders for the CNRP, but the opposition’s order of about 1,000 shirts paled in comparison to the massive haul of CPP gear littering the store’s surfaces.

“[The CNRP] doesn’t buy very many,” Ms. Rida said. “They don’t have money.”

(Additional reporting by Van Roeun)

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