A Cambodian trade union’s international liaison undermined the authority of its president and unjustly assumed control of the federation while the union leader was in hiding from political opponents last week, the union president said Monday.
Free Trade Union of the Kingdom of Cambodia adviser George Mcleod on Aug 13 issued a statement declaring that the union would not protest against national election results, contradicting an earlier call for protest.
Mcleod’s statement, issued without the consent of union President Chea Vichea, contradicts the Cambodia Watchdog Council’s dissatisfaction with election results, Chea Vichea said. The Free Trade Union is a leading member of the Council, a coalition of five lobby groups. “It was a big mistake for my life and my members. It is the first time the workers blame the Free Trade Union of being CPP,” he said.
The Free Trade Union calls itself politically neutral, but Chea Vichea in June used the federation to campaign for Sam Rainsy, who founded the union in 1996.
Mcleod’s statement seriously damaged the union’s credibility with workers, prompting many to accuse the federation of accepting government bribes, Chea Vichea said.
“Workers asked why we make the statement to support the CPP,” he said. “They told the FTU the government gave us the money.”
Mcleod said last week that a meeting with CPP Labor Minister Ith Sam Heng crystallized his decision to issue the statement to prevent any violence.
Chea Vichea said he did not know about the meeting, and noted that the union’s secretary- general, not Mcleod, should direct the federation in his absence. Chea Vichea went into hiding after allegedly receiving a death threat in July.
Several television and radio stations read Mcleod’s statement during broadcasts on Aug 13. Choum Momthol, president of the CPP-affiliated Cambodian Union Federation, said Mcleod’s statement helped him persuade Free Trade Union members to accept the election results.
Mcleod, who flew to his native Canada last week, could not be reached for comment by telephone and did not respond to questions sent by e-mail.