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NEC and JICA to educate workers

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Garment workers produce items of apparel at a factory in Kandal province. The NEC, in collaboration with JICA, will hold sessions to educate garment workers about the upcoming commune elections. Heng Chivoan

NEC and JICA to educate workers

The National Election Committee (NEC) is collaborating with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) to educate factory workers about voting procedures in the upcoming commune elections, the Ministry of Labour announced on Tuesday.

Some labour leaders, however, questioned the value of the move, saying that ignorance and indifference are not the principal factors obstructing workers’ votes.

According to NEC spokesperson Hang Puthea, JICA would dispatch its advisers to special economic zones (SEZs) and provincial factories. There, said Puthea, JICA advisers would hold rallies with officials from the local Provincial Election Committees (PECs) to “explain the importance of the vote”.

Svay Rieng Provincial Election Committee Director Em Sot said that JICA organised one educational rally for workers earlier this month in Bavet town’s SEZ. At the rally, Sot said, the JICA advisers distributed posters and screened a movie about the importance of voting.

JICA experts responsible for the project did not immediately respond to requests for comment yesterday, and the Ministry of Labour referred all questions back to the NEC.

Though generally supportive of efforts to promote voting among workers, labour representatives yesterday highlighted intense workdays and a lack of voting options for migrant workers as the primary obstacles to workers voting – not unfamiliarity with the process.

Cambodian Alliance of Trade Unions (CATU) President Yang Sophorn claimed that nearly all 100,000 members of her union were registered to vote. While she welcomed further encouragement, Sophorn said some workers complained to her that they found it difficult to register due to their demanding work schedules.

If the government wishes to encourage workers to vote, said Moeun Tola of labour rights group Central, they should allow Cambodian migrant workers to vote from overseas.

“We need to settle polling stations in Cambodian embassies and consulate offices in Thailand, South Korea and Malaysia to offer them the opportunity to vote.”

Citing the estimated 1 million Cambodian workers living in Thailand, Tola argued that “if you look at the [number of Cambodian migrant workers] you could fill up more than 20 seats at the National Assembly”.

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