The National Election Committee (NEC) called on factories and other enterprises to allow workers to go to the polls and vote in the July 29 national elections, a move that left at least one expert wondering whether it was a push to boost voter turnout.
The letter dated June 8 said, “the NEC would like to appeal to all owners of enterprises, companies, factories, hotels, restaurants and institutions in Cambodia to allow workers to travel to vote on July 29, at the communes where they are registered”.
Representatives of two garment factories said on Monday they did not receive the letter as yet. But one said he had received a text from the NEC. They said they would abide by the order when the Labour Ministry issued an announcement.
Sor Bunthoeun, a representative of Cambo Handsome, a garment factory with more than 6,000 workers, said the owner might not follow the appeal.
“It is the owner of the factory who will decide. If there is no official letter from the Ministry of Labour, a prakas, or announcement, this would be hard,” Bunthoeun said. He added that he didn’t see such an announcement issued for the 2013 national elections nor last year’s commune elections.
Ministry of Labour spokesman Heng Sour could not be reached for comment.
Som Sorida, the NEC’s deputy secretary-general, told The Post that the NEC has not yet sent a request letter to the ministry.
He said the NEC will request that the Labour Ministry ask factories and businesses not to make work mandatory on July 29, a Sunday.
“This appeal is the same as what we did last year. The reason is that we don’t have a law that allows people to stop working to go to vote.
“But because it will be on Sunday, we appeal to the factories and enterprises not to make workers work that Sunday,” Sorida said.
He said during the 2013 elections, workers who needed to vote far from their workplaces were given two days off (a day before and after the election) to travel and return to work. However, he said that law has since been changed.
Yoeung Sotheara, an expert on the Kingdom’s election process, said on Monday that it is the duty of the NEC to urge people to vote.
However, he said this appeal could be a response to boycott calls.
“High voter turnout is good for the parties that compete in the election, especially the ruling one which is trying to find legitimacy.”