[Editor's note: In the weeks leading into national
polls, VOA Khmer will explore a wide number of election issues. The
"Election Issues 2008" series will air stories on Tuesday and
Wednesday, followed by a related "Hello VOA" guest on Thursday. This
is the first in a two-part series examining the role of workers in the
The increasing price of gas may be one deterrent for voters
this year, but workers say they will also have to overcome the policies of
Many garment workers live in Phnom Penh but hail from rural provinces,
where they are registered to vote. This can make travel for voting expensive,
and requires time off for work.
Independent groups have worked hard to encourage factories
to give their workers time off for Election Day, July 27, but workers say they
worry individual factory owners have little incentive to do so.
Workers say in the 2007 commune elections, they were forced
to work overtime during the elections, but they were not given time off. They
are worried the same will happen in July.
The July election was very important, said Nov Sokheoun, 25,
a garment worker at the Teratec factory, who is registered in Kampot province.
"I wish to attend to vote, although my province is 120 kilometers far away
from Phnom Penh."
Some workers representatives say there should be no problem.
Chuon Mom Thol, president of the Cambodian Union Federation,
said there should be no problem, and he plans to make a request to the Ministry
of Labor to allow workers time off to vote.
Om Mean, undersecretary of state for the Ministry of Labor,
said on Monday the ministry issued an official letter to all unions and factory
owners to allow garment workers to vote. When the factory owners receive the
letter, they will respect the ruling of the government, he said.
There are 394 factories in Phnom Penh, employing 340,000 people,
according to the president of the Free Trade Union, Chea Mony.