>Costs and distances may keep workers from polls say unions

>Chea Mony addressed striking workers.

By Chun Sophal
The Mekong times

The Free Trade Union of Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia (FTUWKC), which has members in over 180 garment factories nationwide, is predicting that only about 200,000 workers will vote in the July 27 national election.
“The recent dramatically high inflation is one of the main factors that cause only a small number of workers to be able to go out and vote,” said FTUWKC President Chea Mony.
Chea Mony said that not all of the roughly 340,000 garment factory workers will be able to vote because there will likely be a rise in transportation costs, which traditionally occur during holidays, and that will probably prevent many workers from traveling to their home provinces to vote.
Each worker who has a residence in the provinces may spend around US$20 on transportation fees to their hometowns to vote, according to an estimation made by the union.
Tep Nytha, secretary general of the National Election Committee (NEC), is hopeful that a much higher number of garment workers will vote as the NEC has appealed to bus and taxi services to not raise fares during the election.
“We think that not all workers will go to vote in the provinces. Some of them will vote in the city. I hope that there will be at least 70 percent of people come to cast ballots in this fourth mandate of the parliamentary election.”
Recently the NEC announced that Cambodia has a total of 8,124,391 eligible voters for the upcoming parliamentary election.
Still, Chea Mony wasn’t hopeful that many garment workers will be able to vote, pointing out that their low salaries will make it difficult to travel to their villages.
“I am not pessimistic, but I think both the NEC and authorities did not help workers, not even a little. This is a reason why I predicted that the number of workers going to vote will be smaller,” he added.
Koul Panha, executive director of the Committee for Free and Fair Election in Cambodia (Comfrel), said it will be regrettable if over 100,000 garment workers do not go to vote.
“I think workers have to go to vote despite the inflation because their massive absence may make other people use it as a pretext for their absence from casting ballots, which is not good for our election.” Koul Panha said. “I would like to appeal to workers to struggle against all obstacles and go to cast votes because only politics can bring a change to our livelihoods.”

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