Moeun Tola, director of labour rights group Central, said yesterday his organisation planned to request the establishment of registration and voting stations in Thailand after meeting with migrant workers earlier this week.
He returned from a trip to Thailand on Wednesday saying he would petition the National Election Committee (NEC) on behalf of migrant workers.
Members from Central met with 1,000 workers during discussions on Sunday and Monday, said Tola, adding that the overwhelming majority had expressed a desire to vote. Despite this, he added, only 3 to 5 percent of the hundreds of thousands of workers in Thailand would likely be able to register.
Voters find it difficult to return to Cambodia to register, he explained, both because their employers in Thailand don’t want them to leave, and because they cannot afford the trip. “Seven hundred thousand workers leaving at once would make the Thai economy collapse,” Tola said.
NEC spokesman Hang Puthea, however, poured water on the idea. “Voter registration must be organised in the commune,” Puthea said. “A Cambodian commune cannot be in Thailand.”
The opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party made a similar request in July, but it was denied on the grounds that voters must register in their home commune. As of August, however, that rule no longer stands.
Tola said he was concerned that the government had not expressed real commitment to the issue, pointing out that Myanmar’s government had set up registration and voter stations in Thailand.
“It depends on political will,” he said. “This is the best option if the government is really committed to not letting individuals lose their right to vote.”
Additional reporting by Niem Chheng