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Government Salaries Added to Campaigns

With increasing cost pressures hitting Cambodians as they move toward a general election, the monthly wages of government workers has become a political issue.

Competing parties have added it to their platforms, promising as much as $100 per month increases after the election, while the ruling Cambodian People's Party has made promises of its own.

Speaking at a road inauguration Monday, Prime Minister Hun Sen acknowledged that government staff was getting small wages.

"I do not deny that government staff has a salary problem," Hun Sen said. "But we have to follow step by step to raise their wages, around 20 percent per year."

The average government worker earns $30 per month.

"We must construct the roads, bridges and schools," he said. "If not, we would be able to give further wages for government staff."

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy said Hun Sen's statement showed irresponsibility, as the wage raise was not in correspondence with inflation. If the salary cannot be raised up at least 100 percent, the living standards of government staff will fall, he said.

The Sam Rainsy Party, if elected, would boost the salary to 500,000 riel per month, about $125 per month, he said.

The Cambodian Independent Teachers Association has several times threatened to demonstrate over low wages, and the garment sector was forced to increase the wages of factory workers by $6, following strike threats.

Government staff must get at least 400,000 riel per month, about $100, said Rong Chhun, president of the teacher's association. The government has the means to make such a raise, he said, "if they want."