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Villagers say chief withheld voter IDs

7 Villager in Ratanakkiri

Villagers in Ratanakkiri province and rights group Adhoc will file a complaint with provincial police today after a local authority allegedly denied 200 residents identification cards, preventing them from voting in next month’s election.

Adhoc and seven representatives of the aggrieved residents of Bakeo Chas village in Bakeo district’s Laminh commune sent the complaint to the village chief on Friday, Adhoc provincial coordinator Chhay Thy  said.

“Without ID, they are not allowed to vote, so I will forward the letter to provincial police this Monday,” Thy said.

The village chief charged villagers – who had recently been forced off land they had occupied since 1999 by a series of private and state development projects – $5 to process IDs and between $30 and $50 for a family record book, Thy said.

“It is an illegal act and against the Ministry of Interior policy that the authority demanded the villagers to pay for the making of ID or a family book,” Thy said.

“The authority regards us as anarchic villagers or living illegally here, so they do not want to give us any documents” said Ek Orng, one of the seven representing villagers in the complaint.

“We are worried that we are not able to vote next month.”

About 100 people failed to register for an ID simply because they could not afford it, Orng added.

But Laminh commune chief Pen Sophon denied claims that IDs were kept out of the villigers’ hands.

“Only about 10 villagers have not received IDs because they were not home when the village chief handed over the ID from home to home,” Sophon said. He added that village chief did not charge money for the IDs.

Most of the villagers occupy the land without village chief’s permission, Sophon added.

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