NEC to Factories: Let Workers Out to Vote

The National Election Com­mittee has sent a letter to the Ministry of Labor asking the government to persuade factory owners to give employees time off to register to vote for the upcoming commune elections.

But a Labor Ministry official said he doesn’t think the ministry is authorized to tell factories to close unless it has cooperation from other ministries.

Opposition party activists and election monitors have argued that the thousands of factory workers living in Phnom Penh may miss their opportunity to vote if authorities continue to demand bribes to obtain voter registration certificates.

In addition to the bribes, the workers may not be able to vote if factory owners refuse to give laborers the day off. Many factory workers are not originally from Phnom Penh and are registered to vote in their native provinces. The election law says people must vote in the commune where they registered, so workers would need time to travel to their hometown.

Political observers have said that factory workers concerns may not be resolved since many of them support Sam Rainsy.

In response, the Sam Rainsy Party has told all its members to urge factory workers to register as voters in their commune of residence, near their place of work, by July 22 at the latest.

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy has also invited 1,000 workers’ representatives to meet with him on July 22.

“We must ensure that we lose no votes from workers in 2002 as we unfortunately did in 1998 because of obstacles and tricks by the ruling CPP,” he said.

He said that during the 1998 national elections, factory owners closed down their businesses a few days before and after voting day to encourage workers to return to their native villages so they could not vote in the areas where most of them had registered.

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