Chea Mony said Monday that he would fulfill a longtime ambition and join the CNRP when he relinquishes his position as head of the Free Trade Union (FTU), which was formed in 1996 by his slain brother Chea Vichea and opposition leader Sam Rainsy.
FTU officials have not said when a vote might be held to replace Mr. Mony, who took over as president shortly after Chea Vichea was assassinated in 2003, but the CNRP’s chief whip said the labor leader would be welcomed by the party.
Earlier this month, Mr. Mony said he was taking a break from his FTU responsibilities to pursue his own interests brokering land deals for foreign firms looking to set up factories. On Monday, he said the tedium of union work had inspired him to take on new responsibilities.
“In fact, in my heart, I have wanted to join the party for a long time, but there were no names coming forward [to lead the FTU], so I just continued,” he said.
“My work focusing only on workers and laws for workers has become monotonous, so I want to make a change to help my nation,” he said, adding that the CNRP’s recent gains against the ruling CPP had been crucial to his decision.
Last year, a trio of former FTU officials who now head their own unions said Mr. Mony had corrupted the union, and used his position to enrich himself.
Mr. Mony has also been accused of having ties to the ruling CPP, but CNRP chief whip Son Chhay said he would be judged on his character, not on speculation or rumors.
“Nearly everyone in the opposition has been accused of that,” Mr. Chhay said. “But the reality is, if you are committed, you will be judged by the public based on that, not on accusations.”
“[Mr. Mony] has always worked hard to support workers in this country. He understands the people and we will welcome him,” he said, adding that there had been no formal discussions within the party regarding Mr. Mony’s possible role.
“I am not aware of his plans, but maybe he has spoken with someone else,” he said.
Mr. Rainsy, who with Chea Vichea launched Cambodia’s first postwar movement of workers as the garment industry took hold in the 1990s, on Monday confirmed that there had been no formal move to bring Mr. Mony into the party.
“When he joins, that is his decision,” said Mr. Rainsy, who was at the FTU’s Phnom Penh headquarters on Sunday when Mr. Mony announced his decision to step down.
The FTU’s internal rules dictate that a leader may serve only two three-year mandates.
Mr. Mony on Monday declined to say when a vote might be held to replace him. Sai Sok Ny, one of his deputies, said the FTU did not currently have the money to call an election.