Work­ers to get three days off for polls

The Phnom Penh Post - - NATIONAL - Niem Ch­heng

The Min­istry of Labour in­structed fac­to­ries and en­ter­prises in the Kingdom to give work­ers three days off in or­der to cast their bal­lots in the July 29 na­tional elec­tions, stat­ing that salaries and bonuses should re­main un­af­fected. The move raised eye­brows with a for­mer op­po­si­tion of­fi­cial and at least one NGO say­ing the di­rec­tive was meant to boost turnout and le­git­imise the poll.

In a let­ter, dated June 13 and signed by Min­is­ter of Labour Ith Samheng, t he min­istry wrote: “The own­ers and ex­ec­u­tives of all fac­to­ries, en­ter­prises and in­stitu- tions have to al­low work­ers and em­ploy­ees to have three days off from July 28-30 . . . keep­ing wages and bonuses as usual for the work­ers and em­ploy­ees.”

The let­ter said the de­ci­sion was made as per re­quest by the Na­tional Elec­tion Com­mit­tee (NEC).

When asked for an ex­pla­na­tion of the mis­sive, min­istry spokesman Heng Sour claimed all ques­tions could be an­swered by the let­ter it­self.

Hang Puthea, spokesper­son of the NEC, con­firmed that the elec­tion body had re­quested help from the min­istry but said it did not put a re­quire­ment on the length of leave.

“The NEC had re­quested that own­ers of en­ter­prises and fac­to­ries make it easy for work­ers to go to vote. But we did not mean that they have to stop work­ing. We did not spec­ify the num­ber of days. But we spec­i­fied at one point that Sunday, which is a hol­i­day, don’t make it manda­tory to work,” he said on Thursday.

The an­nounce­ment dif­fered from one put out prior to the com­mune elec­tions last year when the Labour Min­istry made a sim­i­lar state­ment but didn’t spec­ify a num­ber of days for the leave pe­riod. Be­fore the elec­tions of 2013, 2012 and 2008, how­ever, one to three days of leave were man­dated de­pend­ing on how far work­ers needed to travel.

Man Seng­hak, deputy pres­i­dent of Free Trade Union FTUWKC, said that for last year’s com­mune elec­tions he had re­quested the Min­istry of Labour to give work­ers three days off to go, but the min­istry did noth­ing.

“Be­cause some par­ties com­pete in the elec­tion and some par­ties didn’t join, vot­ing or not is the right of the peo­ple. The dif­fer­ence is that the elec­tion last year was not cared about by the Min­istry of Labour. But this year it cares very much,” Seng­hak said.

Korng Sa­vang, an of­fi­cial wi t h e l e c t i o n wat c h d o g Com­frel, said the de­ci­sion could be due to the com­pe­ti­tion be­tween par­ties in the elec­tion and the court-dis­solved Cam­bo­dia Na­tional Res­cue Party (CNRP).

“The par­ties that par­tic­i­pate in the elec­tions call peo­ple to go to vote, while the par­ties that do not join, called peo­ple to boy­cott. So, the NEC and the par­ties in the elec­tion want le­git­i­macy. So, all in­sti­tu­tions want peo­ple to go to vote. It is con­nected with pol­i­tics,” he said.

Mu Sochua, ex-deputy pres­i­dent of the CNRP, said what the Cam­bo­dian Peo­ple’s Party (CPP) wants is the work­ers’ votes.

“From early vote buy­ing to spe­cial al­lowances for preg­nant work­ers and or­der­ing em­ploy­ers to let work­ers go to vote, it is a clear sign that the CPP needs their votes,” Sochua said. “The main thing is vot­ers must be al­lowed to vote or not and not get pun­ished if they stay home.”

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Prime Min­is­ter Hun Sen poses for a selfie with gar­ment work­ers dur­ing a visit to a fac­tory in Ph­nom Penh last Au­gust.

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