SOUNDING on Cambodia, July 2, 2010

So many things have been going on since I took an extended vacation from blogging, but here are some of the Cambodian stories I’ve been following and wondering about:


FTUWKC Renounces Ties to Political Parties

I’ve been wanting to blog this for a few days now, but have been unavoidably distracted by other concerns. I think this is marvelous news and a smart step for the Free Trade Union of the Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia – FTUWKC. The FTUWKC, along with the Cambodian Independent Teacher’s Union (CITU) and the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union (C.CAWDU), are the only three truly independent and democratic unions in Cambodia. Regular readers of this blog have heard lots about the FTUWKC from me, but this recent move is worth noting.

The FTUWKC, which was founded by members of the Sam Rainsy Party, including Chea Vichea, was often thought of (and thought of by members and leaders) as a sort of labor wing of the politically liberal SRP. No more: with the experience of organized struggles under their belted kramas, the FTUWKC has formally renounced political associations in favor of a strategy based solely on organization and action. Bravo!

Instead of relying on the good will of people whom they help elect, the workers of the FTU are making plain that their strategy takes their rights, the value they create, and their futures, into their own hands.

The Phnom Penh Post published a brief piece on last week noting that the courting of the workers by politicians, including the SRP, “marks the rise of industrial workers as a powerful constituent.” In that same article, Chea Mony foreshadowed this week’s decision, saying

“[P]olitical parties have been cheating workers since 1993.”

“Every song they sing is sweet,” he said, urging workers not to be lured into a false sense of hope by the rhetoric.

“Consider each party’s policy platform on labor issues before deciding which one to support in the elections,” he said.

This week, with the renouncing of political association, Chea Mony made that point even clearer: instead of capitalizing on the increased power of Cambodia’s organized workers to make short-term and unreliable political gains (even gains through the historically-affiliated SRP), they now refuse to endorse any candidate. [PPP]

Bravo, Fellow Workers!