Cambodian authorities in Pailin province may be attempting to suppress the vote as they are demanding that residents of some communes bring a witness with them to prove their eligibility when they attempt to register to vote, opposition party officials tell RFA’s Khmer service.
Khoeum Ponn, deputy head of the Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) in the province, told RFA that the authorities’ demand is a violation of the country’s election law and is taking away Cambodian’s rights.
“It creates difficulties for people who have to find a witness because the registration office is far away from their home, and it causes them lose their right to vote,” he said.
Residents of O’Andong, Bor Yikha, O’Tavao, and Sala Krao communes in the western province that lies about 170 miles from the capital of Phnom Penh are being required to bring a witness when they register, he said.
Bun Sophy, head of Pailin’s provincial election secretariat, told RFA that people with registration issues can file a complaint to the election commission.
“Firstly, if they have no ID, the commune council must issue them a [certified] document,” Bun Sophy said.
“Secondly, if there is no permanent residence they [the commune council] must help issue them a residential certification letter,” she explained. “The residential document is issued by the Ministry of Interior, not by the National Election Commission.”
Sin Tit Seiha, an official with the Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia (COMFREL), told RFA the demand is a clear violation of Cambodia’s election law.
“What the commune authorities demanded, that they have to bring a witness from their home village, is wrong and against procedures of the election law,” he said. “In this case, people can request for intervention from the Pailin provincial election commission secretary.”
A new system
Cambodians are using a new digital voter registration system that is designed to combat voter fraud.
Elections in 2013 were dogged by accusations of fraud, and the new system is part of a 2014 election reform deal between the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) and opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) that ended almost a year of deadlock following the disputed 2013 national ballot.
Rights groups and foreign aid donors, including the European Union, have expressed concern about the election registration process which is unfolding amid rising political tensions in Cambodia.
In particular, National Election Commission (NEC ) Deputy Secretary-General Ny Chakriya is in police custody, one of five people arrested by the government in its wide-ranging probe into an alleged affair opposition Cambodia national rescue party leader Kem Sokha had with a young hairdresser.
Local commune elections will be held in 2017 and national parliamentary elections are scheduled for 2018.
This is not the first time that questions were raised about interference in the registration process by the government or the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP).
Earlier in September, Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) officials told RFA that they had filed five different complaints with the National Election Commission (NEC) regarding voter-registration irregularities, including attempts to register soldiers in districts where they are ineligible.
Reported by Hum Hour for for RFA's Khmer Service. Translated by Yanny Hin. Written in English by Brooks Boliek.