Vorn Pao was re-elected president on Thursday of the Independent Democracy of Informal Economy Association (IDEA), a labor group comprised mostly of tuk-tuk drivers and moto-dops, in an uncontested ballot after his vice president withdrew from the race over allegations of irregularities.
Sok Chhun Oeung, who resigned as vice president of IDEA and withdrew his name from the presidency ballot, sat outside the organization’s office in Phnom Penh’s Dangkao district Thursday as members inside selected the executive board and provincial councilors.
“We are boycotting the election because they did not include me in any discussions, refused to delay the vote, and have three temporary staff members running for election as executive board members,” Mr. Chhun Oeung said.
He claimed that IDEA’s bylaws prevent paid staff from being candidates for the executive board, reserving the leadership positions for members only.
“It is a mistake and we cannot accept it because it is not based upon the laws,” he said.
But Mr. Pao said Mr. Chhun Oeung’s grievances were erroneous, and said the former vice president was simply trying to destroy the organization, which claims to have 7,000 members.
“It is just baseless accusations. We do follow the laws,” he said. “The staffers are banned from being representative councilors, but not from being executive board candidates.”
Mr. Pao said he believes Mr. Chhun Oeung is working together with Ath Thorn, president of the Cambodian Labor Confederation (CLC), which counts IDEA as a member, to undermine his leadership of the association.
“He [Mr. Chhun Oeung] came to destroy the organization because he got orders from Ath Thorn,” Mr. Pao said. “Ath Thorn has been out to get me since 2013, when I asked about irregularities in his union.”
Contacted Thursday, Mr. Thorn, who sent a letter to Mr. Pao requesting he delay the elections, denied giving any orders to Mr. Chhun Oeung.
“I got a complaint from members of IDEA that they wanted to clarify some things,” he said. “They asked me for intervention. I will help them because IDEA is a member of CLC.”
Sem San, a council candidate and IDEA member, said Mr. Chhun Oeung likely did not join the election because he has no support.
“I think that Mr. Chhun Oeung is a coward,” he said. “He did not dare to put his name on the ballot because he will lose.”