ROKAR KNOR-Nestled quietly along the banks of the Mekong River in Kompong Cham province,
Rokar Knor village is just one of many sites throughout the countryside where Cambodians
are flocking to register for the first multi-party election in many decades.
"I am very happy because I hope that Cambodia will get peace," said Khek
Thor, 68, after she registered to vote. "I heard from other people who said
'Please come to register'."
Thor has never participated in an election before. "I haven't decided who I
will vote for yet," she said. "And I can't read but my children read the
UNTAC posters to me. All my family members registered already." Thor is a mother
of nine, although two of her children disappeared during the Pol Pot years.
Voter registration is running at a healthy clip at the 52 sites open in Kompong Cham
province. Since the first registration site was opened there on Oct. 22 more than
100,000 people have signed up to vote, representing just over 16 percent of the estimated
683,190 eligible voters in Cambodia's most populous province.
"All the time we are getting a big crowd here," said Abhai Bardaiyar, a
district electoral supervisor at the Dey Dos Pagoda registration site in Kompong
Cham city. "People are enthusiastic." Sixty percent of the estimated eligible
voters have already signed up in the commune he oversees.
"Even old people who can hardly walk are coming," said Bardaiyar. "Handicapped-some
who are crawling-are coming too."
"I'm so happy for these people," said Rita Kongwa, a native of Jamaica
and the deputy provincial electoral officer in Kompong Cham. "And I'm so proud
of our staff."
"This doesn't happen by itself," she added. "The groundwork has to
be laid. Civic education is the key and we've been doing that since July."
More than 1 million people have registered to vote throughout Cambodia since registration
started Oct. 5.