Defending Khmer Citizens’ Right to Vote

CNRP calls for overseas polls

Wed, 24 December 2014
Meas Sokchea
The Phnom Penh Post

Election officials tally vote numbers in Phnom Penh last year during the Kingdom’s national elections. The CNRP is calling on the government to create overseas polling stations before the next election. Hong Menea

The opposition has called on the ruling Cambodian People’s Party to agree to create new overseas polling stations ahead of the next election to allow more expatriate Cambodians to vote.

Kuoy Bunroeun, a Cambodia National Rescue Party candidate for a place on a reformed National Election Committee (NEC), said yesterday that more polling stations should be created in Thailand, South Korea and Malaysia to serve the needs of the many thousands of Cambodians working abroad.

“There are people and officials working abroad. It’s our principle that we want all Khmer people to have the right to vote,” he said. “As election organisers, we must be open [for voters].”

He added that it was common practice for democratic countries to offer voting procedures for expatriates and urged the CPP to agree to the proposal.

During ongoing negotiations over electoral reform, the CNRP is also pushing the CPP to agree to greater restrictions on voter registration, which would include thumb-printing, photo identification and unique code numbers in an effort to curb duplicate votes.

“If the NEC is in charge, the procedure will be unclear,” Bunroeun said. “To have the restrictions written into the law is better.”

The opposition enjoys strong support abroad, and workers in South Korea recently staged a protest calling for the release of jailed opposition activists.

Deputy Prime Minister Bin Chhin could not be reached yesterday, but he told the National Assembly on Monday that the costs of arranging the overseas voting proposed by Bunroeun would outweigh the benefits.

The parties have agreed in principle to work against the use of duplicate names in the voter list. “We agreed together to guarantee to have transparency, quality and safety, and to avoid duplicated names,” Bunroeun said yesterday.

Koul Panha, executive director of election watchdog COMFREL, said the group supported the prospect of setting up more overseas voting stations.

“We can organise the election abroad [and] let our embassies do it. But there must be regulations, in case there is fraud when the ballots are sent back [to Cambodia],” he said.

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