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Workers, a Potential Voter Block Disbursed

[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 second in a two-part series examining the role of workers.]

Though unions are able to exercise some influence on their members, the worker vote is widely disbursed, as many find it easier to register in their home provinces than in Phnom Penh, a labor leader said.

Some leaders of Cambodia's 28 labor unions say they will push workers to join the vote on July 27. Nearly all of these unions are aligned with a political party, and more than 20 of them support the ruling Cambodian People's Party, said Chea Mony, president of the Free Trade Union.

Cambodia's 394 factories employ about 340,000 people, but most of them are not registered in Phnom Penh. They are registered in their home provinces, because they find it easier to register, Chea Mony said, and registering in Phnom Penh is difficult, because they don't know the city.

Chuon Mom Thol, president of the Cambodian Union of Civil Servants, whose union of more than 7,000 members supports the CPP, told VOA Khmer recently he will inform his workers to join the vote, and if they have no ability to vote, he will hire a truck to them.

He believes all of his members will vote for the CPP, because the workers believe in the party's policy of a $6 wage increase earlier this year.

The environment is different compared to 2003, when 80 percent of workers supported the ruling party. Now 90 percent to 95 percent of workers support the party, he said.

Chea Mony, whose union has more than 80,000 members, officially supports the Sam Rainsy Party, he said. Free Trade members believe the opposition assists them in strikes in the name of workers or when they meet with violence, he said.

In the upcoming period, he said, he expects to rally at least 10,000 more workers to vote for the party, he said.

In addition to encouraging workers to vote for the opposition, Chea Mony said he also wrote a letter to the National Election Committee and the Ministry of Labor asking them to support the workers' right to vote.