Sun, Jul 22, 2018 - Page 4 News List

Cambodian shoemaker has little time for election

Cambodian mother Khen Srey Touch sews shoes at a Taiwanese-owned footwear factory in Kampong Speu, Cambodia, on July 5.

Photo: Reuters

Reuters, KAMPONG SPEU, Cambodia

Whoever wins Cambodia’s general election next week, 27-year-old Khen Srey Touch knows only that she will have to keep working hard for years to come.

Already the mother of a four-year-old boy, she is due to give birth to a girl within two weeks, but maintains a punishing schedule in a shoe factory, working about 10 hours a day, six days a week.

“I am the main breadwinner of the house,” Khen Srey Touch told a photographer who spent a few days with her family in their village southwest of the capital, Phnom Penh.

Each morning she catches a ride in an open pickup truck to a footwear factory owned by a Taiwanese company. She earns US$240 a month making shoes for US, British and Japanese brands.

It is dark when she returns home to cook the evening meal and wait for her husband, a temporary construction worker.

Khen Srey Touch is among thousands of workers in the garment industry who are being courted by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen ahead of the election on July 29.

Like many Cambodians, she has known no other leader but Hun Sen.

“He is the only person who has ruled the country and I don’t know why,” she said.

Hun Sen, who has ruled Cambodia for more than 30 years, is trying to ensure victory after two close elections in 2013 and last year by handing out cash inducements and a series of punishing measures against the opposition.

His government has targeted opposition politicians, civil society groups and independent media ahead of the poll, which he appears set to win easily.

Hun Sen has also been a fixture at campaign rallies with garment workers, promising them more benefits and handing cash envelopes to pregnant employees.

Khen Srey Touch said she knew it was important to cast her vote, but she understood little about political parties.

Whatever the election outcome, she was determined her children would have a better life.

“I want my children to have a good education ... not to be like me and my husband,” she said.

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