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Voters test whether bleach removes ink

Following rumours that the indelible ink used to mark the fingers of voters was delible after all, hundreds who voted at Russey Sros Primary School in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district yesterday took it as a challenge to wash their skin clean.

When polls opened at 9am, a few students showed up providing bleach for voters to test the permanence of the ink. The experiment drew a crowd, leading police to show after 30 minutes and confiscate the bleach.

Lam Chan Sophal, 50, said that after voting, he approached the men with the bleach to see if it could really erase the ink.

“I looked at the hands of a few women cleaned by the bleach; they were almost clean. I almost didn’t believe it but it was right in front of me,” Chan Sophal said, adding that shortly after, the police came to break up the crowd and seize the bleach.

Another voter, who wished to remain anonymous, said she had heard the ink was not effective and decided to see for herself.

“I tried, and I saw that it was clean. We were afraid someone could vote twice or many times per day,” she said.

Election watchdog Comfrel held a press conference on Saturday showing one of its staff members cleaning the ink from his finger in less than five minutes.

Koul Panha, director of Comfrel, said the ink was not effective and urged the National Election Committee to take action to ensure a fair election.

“Related NGOs are concerned about the ink. After testing it, we found it cleans right off. We are deeply concerned that someone could vote twice or more on election day,” Panha said.

But the NEC stuck to its claim that the ink, donated by the Indian government, could not be cleaned off once exposed to sunlight.

NEC chairman Im Suosdey said the ink was effective and had been used since 1998.

“It is quality ink – unlike Comfrel’s claims,” he said.

Post staff conducted their own experiment yesterday with one reporter, who five hours after voting cleaned the ink from her finger with ease using ordinary household bleach.

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