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Hardworking Cambodian shoe maker has little time for politics

KAMPONG SPEU, Cambodia (Reuters) – 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 Reuters photographer who spent a few days with her family in their village southwest of the capital Phnom Penh. (For related pictures, please click reut.rs/2O3gfL9)

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

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

Women work on the production line at Complete Honour Footwear Industrial, a footwear factory owned by a Taiwan company, in Kampong Speu, Cambodia, July 4, 2018. REUTERS/Ann Wang

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

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 added.

Hun Sen, who has ruled Cambodia for more than 30 years, is trying to ensure victory after two close elections in 2013 and 2017, 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.

And whatever the election outcome, she was determined her children will have a better life.

Slideshow (30 Images)

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

Reporting by; Writing by Amy Sawitta Lefevre; Editing by Darren Schuettler

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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