Cambodian citizens living abroad should be entitled to vote in national elections, UN special rapporteur Surya Subedi emphasised in his 2012 report on electoral reform.
Allowing Cambodian citizens abroad to vote, “at least in the countries where it has diplomatic and/or consular representation”, was one of 18 recommendations Subedi made on Monday
The sentiment was echoed by election monitor Comfrel’s director Koul Panha yesterday.
“Cambodians living abroad contribute in a big way to the economy in Cambodia and they should be able to be connected to Cambodian politics and encouraged to vote,” Panha said. “They sacrifice a lot to live abroad and we should be connecting them with the contribution they make to the economy through democracy.”
Special rapporteur Subedi also stressed that “voting should not be a privilege but a right”.
“As a country that has ratified many international human [rights] treaties and that currently holds the chairmanship of ASEAN, Cambodia should aspire to be a model in the region when it comes to holding free and fair elections, and should do better than many States whose democracy remains in its infancy,” he said.
Opposition parliamentarian Mu Sochua said Cambodians living abroad were often upset about being unable to vote.
“This recommendation is not for party gain, but to protect constitutional rights,” Sochua said, noting that voting rights are not restricted to residents.
“This is not just Sam Rainsy Party members who are outside Cambodia, the Cambodian People’s Party also has its own members,” she continued, adding that all Cambodian citizens were allowed to vote in the UN-sponsored elections in 1993.
However, Panha said the clock was ticking on making reforms before next year’s elections.
“If [the NEC] really wanted something to happen in one year, it can happen, but I think now it is too late,” for change before 2013, he said.
NEC Secretary-General Tep Nytha welcomed the recommendations in the report.
“For voting abroad at election time, we can allow people living in the country but who are working or studying abroad to have rights to vote. But for those who have been living abroad forever, no country would allow them to vote.”