Troops from the elite 911 Paratrooper Brigade have been registered at “soldier only” polling stations near their Phnom Penh bases, according to opposition commune candidates running in the communes, claims seemingly backed up by data from the voter list.
In an arrangement that one election monitor said would erode the troops’ collective anonymity and right to a secret vote, four stations in the capital’s Kambol commune were off-limits to all but 911 soldiers and their families, said Prak Seyha, the CNRP’s commune chief candidate in the commune.
“There are about 2,000 soldiers from 911 registered here In four voting stations, all of them are soldiers; ordinary citizens were not allowed to register there,” Seyha said.
According to the voter list compiled by the NEC last year, four stations in the commune, which encompasses the unit’s base, have the highest gender imbalance in the country.
At stations 1764, 1765 and 1766, more than 96 percent of the voters are men. At station 1763, 90 percent of voters are women. One of the units stationed in Kambol is all-female.
In an interview this week, Lieutenant General Chap Pheakdey, commander of the 911 unit, said his soldiers were registered near their base, but denied they had been concentrated at single stations.
“It is not only at one place,” said Pheakdey, a member of the ruling CPP’s central committee. “There are many bases, so where they are based, they will vote at the location.”
Meanwhile, in nearby Choam Chao III commune, Va Savoeun, a CNRP candidate for the commune, said a similar arrangement existed for troops from Brigade 70. According to voter list data, there are three stations there where about 70 percent of the voters are male.
Sam Kuntheamy, of election watchdog Nicfec, said soldier-only stations would compromise the soldiers’ right to a secret vote, and make them “easy to control”.