Unions Allege Workers Were Bought Off Trying to Buy Off Workers, Union Leaders Say

Cambodian trade unions said Wednesday that commune pol­ice, Labor Ministry officials and garment manufacturers are guilty of buying factory workers’ support of the election.

Coalition of Cambodian Appa­rel Workers Democratic Union official Yim Sakhom said commune police officials at Chak Angre Krom commune in Mean­chey district asked him to sign two petitions in support of the CPP—one to support the election results and another a promise not to join any anti-CPP demonstrations.

“I won’t sign the petition, which is contrary to my conscience, al­though they [may] kill me,” Yim Sakhom said, who is the union rep­re­sentative at Kin Tai Gar­ment Co Ltd.

He said police officials made several phone and house calls to Kin Tai Garment’s CCAWDU union president, San Chanbo, and three union members to persuade them to sign the petition. They agreed to sign in exchange for 100,000 riel (about $25), he said.

CCAWDU federation Pres­ident Chhorn Sokha said they accepted the money and petition because they feared for their security.

Chak Angre Krom Police Chief Chea Sokaiy said his officers did not offer workers bribes or petitions.

He said the Labor Ministry’s La­bor and Vocational Training Gen­­eral Director Oum Mean in­stead has visited factories to persuade workers not to demonstrate.

“Oum Mean has sent his secret officials to the factory. If the workers agree, they can sign,” he said.

Labor officials have allegedly bribed and pressured workers to sign petitions by showing them a written request by the Free Trade Union of the Kingdom of Cambo­dia’s international liaison, George Mcleod, not to protest, Chea Sok­aiy said.

Free Trade Union President Chea Vichea said this week that the letter was written without his consent and that it contradicts the union’s desire to reject an unfair election.

Oum Mean on Wednesday denied bribing workers to support the election results.

The department’s approximately 40 labor inspectors visit factories daily, using words, not mon­ey, to persuade workers to be apol­itical, he said.

“It’s a wrong rumor. Our salary is only between $50 and $100. We don’t have the money,” Oum Mean said. “We don’t want to in­volve the unions in political is­sues. So the ministry issues an appeal that workers have to be calm and encourage stability.”

The Labor Ministry in July is­sued a statement strongly suggesting that workers avoid activities that compromise national security. Workers have the right to demonstrate, according to the Constitution, but Article 41 states that “no one shall exercise this right…to violate public law and order and national security.”

Oum Mean said he and Labor Ministry official Ker Soksidney joined a dinner hosted by the man­agers of Concept Garment (Cambodia) Co Ltd last week to reward union members for not demonstrating.

Free Trade Union officials at Concept held a strike last week to express their dissatisfaction with 16 union officials who did not share the $100 they each re­ceived from factory managers, said Concept union President Sok Sareoum on Wednesday.

“The factory offered the money because they have appreciated that we never led the workers to hold the demonstration,” he said.

Free Trade Union spokesman Phoung Montry said Tuesday that factory workers have reported that ministry officials are paying workers to be apolitical.

The Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia Secre­tary-General Ray Chew said inspectors for GMAC reported that Concept workers held a strike to demand a dinner of their own.

GMAC inspector Long Hane said last week’s strike was “seriously illegal” and costly.

“The factory couldn’t face further loss because of the strike, so the factory offered five dollars to each worker as bonuses,” he said.


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