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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - No homes and no votes for evictees

No homes and no votes for evictees

Villagers whose homes were burned in a forced eviction in Oddar Meanchey last week might be unable to vote because their identity documents were destroyed.

Thousands face exclusion because of lost personal documents, groups warn.

THE National Election Committee (NEC) is shirking its responsibilities to victims of land evictions, critics charged Wednesday, as the fallout continued over suggestions that thousands of evictees may have been erased from official voter rolls.

A day after announcing that the names of 33,144 people had been removed from voter rolls, NEC officials admitted Wednesday that authorities have refused to register some evictees because they lack proper government identification.

“Some individual evictees were not legally living in their relocation commune,” said Tep Nytha, a secretary general at the NEC, who called the issue a “headache”.

If evictees truly want to register for future elections, he said, they should go to their commune councillors and obtain new identification.

The suggestion sparked criticism from rights groups, who accused the NEC of abdicating its responsibilities to ensure proper elections throughout the Kingdom.

“The upcoming commune elections in 2012 will not be fair if evictees are unable to vote,” said Koul Panha, executive director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia (Comfrel), a local elections watchdog.

He urged the NEC to pressure the government to issue proper identification to the evictees, many of whose ID cards were destroyed or lost during the turmoil of their evictions.

It is not clear how many evictees may have been erased from the voter registry, but conservative estimates suggest they could number in the thousands, Koul Panha said.

He added that Comfrel survey of just three Phnom Penh communes – Trapaing Krasang, Prey Veng and Choam Chao – found at least 3,600 evictees who have been refused registration.

“We think that there are many other evictees who have lost their rights to vote,” he said.

In Oddar Meanchey province, where authorities burned homes to the ground this weekend in an ongoing land dispute, more than 200 evictees may have lost their papers, according to former Bos village Chief Huoy Chhuoy.

In Phnom Penh, 61-year-old Hem Sareoun said he and his wife, Som Ny, were refused registration because they had no ID cards nor a family book. The documents had been lost when the pair were rooted out of the Dey Krahorm community in 2008.

“The commune elections officers refused to register my name and my wife’s name,” he said. The Ministry of Interior oversees the management of government-issued identification. Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak declined to comment when contacted by the Post Wednesday.



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