Uneasy Workers Demand To Be Paid Early

Garment workers troubled by rumors of imminent political unrest and street fighting de­manded an early pay day this week, while teacher and worker unions reported that CPP officials have demanded their signatures on petitions endorsing the preliminary election results.

Cambodian Labor Union Fed­eration President Som Aum on Wednesday said his members want early salary disbursements to ensure financial security over the weekend because workers are uneasy that politically stoked fighting could erupt. He said workers will strike at two factories on Friday if managers do not pay their wages.

Coalition of Cambodian Ap­parel Workers Democratic Union President Chhorn Sokha said  Wednesday she would consider striking, as union affiliates from 22 factories have demanded salaries but have not been paid.

The Labor Ministry advised factories to pay workers earlier than planned to ease tension stemming from rumored fighting, said Labor Ministry spokes­man Ker Soksidney. But Gar­ment Manufacturers Associ­ation in Cambodia Deputy Sec­retary General David Van said fac­tories may not meet the demand due to complicated overseas money wiring services.

CPP activists armed with slingshots are prepared to enter Phnom Penh today or Friday to support Prime Minister Hun Sen’s leadership in the next government, said Kandal province’s Koh Thom district Deputy Gov­ernor Keo Vibol.

Keo Vibol, a Funcinpec member, and local Sam Rainsy Party official Hay Lork said CPP district Governor Mao So ordered CPP commune chiefs to recruit 10 “strongly built bodies” from each village. Activists were offered 35,000 riel (about $8.75) to gather at the Interior Ministry and In­dependence Monument, Keo Vibol said.

Mao So would not confirm whether trucks were ready to enter the city. “I don’t have any plan yet, but if the two political party activists hold a demonstration to oust Prime Minister Hun Sen, I will gather my forces against them,” he said.

To garner workers’ support for the CPP, Labor Ministry Depart­ment Secretary General Oum Mean allegedly asked union leaders to sign a petition endorsing the election last week.

Som Aum, Chhorn Sokha and National Independent Federation Textile Union of Cambodia Pres­ident Morm Nhim said they were called to Oum Mean’s department July 28 to sign a petition supporting the election results. All three said they refused to sign. “What­ever political party will win the election, if the local and international election observers an­nounce it is acceptable, I will support the results. But I won’t sign the petition,” Chhorn Sokha said.

Oum Mean said he did not know about the petition.

Rong Chhun, Cambodian In­dependent Teach­­ers Associa­tion president, said last week principals in nine schools in Phnom Penh pressured teachers to attend political meetings, where they were forced to fingerprint petitions endorsing the CPP’s election victory.

CPP Education Ministry Secre­tary of State Im Sethy said school principals may be pressuring teachers to join the CPP, but dismissed Rong Chhun’s claims of forced party endorsements.

(Additional reporting by William Shaw)

 

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