Cambodia National Rescue Party president Sam Rainsy on Tuesday announced that he would provide money for migrant workers in Thailand to return home to register to vote, though later qualified the “symbolic gesture” would be for 12 people.
The opposition leader, who fled abroad last year to avoid arrest and lives in an apartment in central Paris, made the pledge on Facebook.
Contacted yesterday by email, he said the plans were “just a symbolic gesture to show my compassion for Cambodian migrant workers in Thailand”.
“I am helping a dozen of them, among the most destitute and vulnerable, to safely come back to Cambodia for a few days to see their families and, at the same time, to register as voters before November 29 and be able, later on, to vote for whichever party they like.”
Despite lobbying from the opposition, the National Election Committee has refused to allow migrant workers to register near the border, requiring them instead to register in their home communes.
Sin Rozith, CNRP deputy chief of O’Cha commune in Battambang province, said the group supported by Rainsy’s cash would include legal and illegal migrants with the former getting $25 and the latter $45, to cover the increased difficulty of returning.
Cambodian People’s Party spokesman Sous Yara said as long as the workers registered legally, the party did not care about Rainsy’s plans.
But a spokesman for the Grassroots Democracy Party, Sam Inn, said while he couldn’t fault Rainsy’s intentions, he questioned gesture’s impact. “If you do cosmetic things, you can’t get important results,” he said.