Special Message of Samdech Techo Hun Sen, Request Bill Suspension and/or Rent Reduction from Landlords, the Electricite du Cambodge and the Cambodian Water Supply Authority for Workers in the Lockdown Areas [Unofficial Translation]

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CNV:

My dear compatriots!

I have an appeal to you regarding the issue of workers’ rents. In the past few days, especially yesterday, there is a demand for (rooms’) rents from our workers. Our workers have not been paid and are still in the lockdown areas, the red zones. In this situation, I beg all landlords to understand the plight of our workers at a time when we are all experiencing hardships. In the past, some landlords have decided not to take the rooms’ rents from the workers for a while or reduce the rents. Some of them allowed lessees to stay rent-free for a long period and I have already written them thank-you notes.

Still, some people lacked understanding and created complications. Yesterday, for instance, there was an issue for us to address quickly. I begged the landlords to suspend the rooms’ rents temporarily for workers as the latters have not yet received their wages. If the landlords can work together to help our workers, for instance, a reduction in the rent by percentage or as much as possible, (it would be great). Should any landlords be able to exempt rents for a month or two, I think they should.

Of course, I know that some landlords also got loans from the bank to build those houses, you have the same difficulties, one is a debtor, and other is a creditor. But hopefully all landlords will be able to understand the common difficulties. This situation is not just in Phnom Penh, if possible, I would ask to practice this everywhere in our country, (especially) in lockdown area. I ask for understanding only for workers in lockdown area and have not yet got paid.

For the water/electricity fees, we also ask Electricite du Cambodge (EDC) as well as the Phnom Penh Water Supply Authority (PPWSA) to focus on workers’ rented houses in advance, which they can give them favor in charging for water/electricity as a contribution to the landlords to solve the common problems of our workers. This activity does not spread to those who have a home with a number of air conditioners. As for the owner who posted on Facebook regarding the demand for water/electricity tariff preference, we have checked it, and those are not workers, but the ones who have many air conditioners, and have plenty of food to eat.

What I am saying here is aiming at the workers’ rented houses/rooms. This is the first request that I hope all landlords will check and please share this difficulty with our workers who are struggling in the red zone and in other areas. They have not yet received any salary. (It would not be appropriate if) you are demanding rents from them. The Royal Government is now focusing in supplying and transporting food to workers living in those rented houses. This is the first point that I would like to appeal to you.

Secondly, […] whether this issue is true or not, but it has already happened. In fact, we sent troops into the red zones to help with vaccination process there and the results were good. We have vaccinated more than 50,000 people a day. As of today, we have injected 1,660,000 people […] we will reach 1,700,000 people, which is a large number compared to countries that have not been vaccinated or have had not many of their populations vaccinated.

There was a problem yesterday. Some of our workers went to the village chief’s house to ask for a certificate with a stamped card (verifying they already had their vaccination), which the village chief had already distributed to the people in his village, since some factories say that workers who have not been vaccinated are not allowed to work. If this is true, it is the fault of the factory owner and I ask the Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training and local authorities to work on this issue.

We have not yet gotten to a point where vaccination is the basis for travel, to reduce the need for quarantine and to enter workplaces, yet. We are at the initial phase of vaccination, in which, in some places, some people got their first doses, while in other places the first doses have not even started yet. Therefore, the resistance to the disease is not yet effective. Even if vaccinated, the issue of self-protection through three preventative measures and three things not to do must apply to all people without exception. We have not yet reached the stage of replacing health measures by vaccinations yet.

According to the information I received, doctors in some countries, due to negligence of vaccination, s/he died (of infection). But more importantly, the use of vaccines to limit work is unfair to those who have not yet been vaccinated. I would like to emphasize that our country has just inoculated about 10 million or around 16% of the population aimed for the inoculation. We plan to reach 13 million people. We are still more than 10% ready. We have not yet been able to take the vaccination issue as a basis to keep the job. I have stated before and also issued a sub-decree to have mandatory vaccines for civil servants and the armed forces, but not for our people. But later there may be such a requirement. However, this requirement must be long-term and there must be enough vaccines to vaccinate our people.

We can now determine the number of people in Phnom Penh to be vaccinated. Once we have finished injection, those who have not been vaccinated will be isolated and unemployed because they have refused to get the vaccination, on ground that vaccines are from this/that country. As I mentioned before, our main concern is not where the vaccines from but we could not find vaccine to inject our people. I would suggest therefore all workplaces, both formal and informal economy, not to use vaccination as a condition for work permission as doing so would upset the local vaccination process as it happened yesterday at the village chief’s house. Workers came to his house to demand a certificate of vaccination. This has become a complication because the factory owners, the factory managers, required from them such proof of vaccination before allowing to workplaces.

The point I would like to emphasize is that we will have everyone injected. We know that even though we have vaccines for injection, in the red zones, we could only vaccinate more than 50,000 people a day. We cannot do it as quick as we wanted it to be because it is relating to safety issues and the interview process. Of course, some people cannot be vaccinated due to health reasons, as in the (Vaccination Adhoc) Commission’s report, more than 1.66 million people wanted vaccination, but after the interviews, doctors did not allow more than 60,000 for vaccination. Later, we might need to ask for a favor from the factory, the workplace, and other places on that fact that this/that person cannot be vaccinated and need to have an exception, as I mentioned earlier. This is my call for vaccinations to be administered in an orderly manner. We go to get the vaccine to protect ourselves, not to get infected with Covid-19 by jostling in the crowd to demand a certificate without a valid basis.

Please pay attention to this issue. I would like to commend the village chiefs, commune chiefs and Khans, as well as all the officials involved in arranging the vaccination for our people, in addition to providing food from all walks of life, from the Royal Government, from philanthropists, from NGOs. I hope those who can afford it do not fight to get help among those who are in need. As I have seen in some places, they use the word “if one were to receive aid, other were as well”. If you think like that, not only that you do not contribute to the people in need, but you create problems for those in need, by showing jealousy to those who deserved to receive help. We have a lot of people who need help but we need to help those truly in need first. Some areas have been closed for a long time and have not yet received aid, and some have received aid but because the lockdown prolonged, they ran out of food. That is why the authorities everywhere focus on the truly needy first. For those who already have food, please understand, do not demand equity or equality during this emergency. I hope you all understand.

In conclusion, I call on all landlords to come up with humanitarian gestures to our workers. EDC and PPWSA should also express their compassion toward workers who used electricity and water in lockdown areas and red zones. Factory owners should not intimidate workers over vaccine problems. Now is not the time to take on the issue of equality and equity and make it a condition to address employment. Wait until Phnom Penh and Kandal Province or the whole country to be vaccinated and those who refuse to be vaccinated are clearly unemployed or unable to find work due to unfortunate propaganda of some people who say that the vaccine kills or causes other diseases.

I call on all of you to understand the situation and ask those who can afford not to compete with those who cannot and demand equity. This is a shame for them. I received a series of pictures of those who can afford, but came to demand for helps, because I would like to emphasize that in order to distribute food a day up to 20,000 or 30,000 families, we need to use thousands of troops, packing, and shipping. The troops outside were exhausted, and my bodyguards deployed more than 2,000 troops to help transport them to where they were needed. It is not easy. It is not to just have rice transporting to you and leaving them on the road. It has to be in proper packages and transport to where you live.

As you know, in areas where our workers live, roads are small for trucks to get in. Our troops have to carry those packages to your homes. I hope you understand this hardship. Especially, I beg the landlords not to focus on rent rather than the problem we are facing, especially workers who are losing incomes, who have not received the salary from the employers. I hope everybody could go through this hardship together. Although we cannot end the February 20 community event, we will be able to get it under control and reduce the number of infections and deaths. Thank you for your attention./.