Opposition officials in Battambang town yesterday said they have temporarily halted a voter registration education campaign after being forbidden from engaging in such activities by local officials.
Chea Chiv, head of the Cambodia National Rescue Party executive committee in Battambang province, said two weeks ago Battambang town and Ek Phnom district governors had ordered the opposition to stop spreading voter registration information. “Right now, we reconciled already, however, our CNRP committee in Battambang decided to temporarily stop these activities . . . in order to avoid confrontation with authorities,” he said.
The activities were only banned in CNRP-held communes, with similar activities in Cambodia People’s Party-controlled locales continuing unfettered, he added.
Battambang Town Governor Sieng Emvunsy yesterday denied having banned the opposition from educating citizens, pointing instead to what he said was dysfunction at the registration station run by O’Char’s CNRP Commune Chief Sin Rozeth – who has repeatedly faced pushback from ruling party officials since taking office – and her commune clerk.
“The issue was caused by the commune clerk coming to work late and causing people who had gone to register to feel angry,” Emvunsy said, without addressing the topic of the educational campaign.
Chiv, however, maintained the educational campaign had been scuttled in O’Char by Emvunsy and the commune clerk.
The clerk could not be reached for comment.
Hang Puthea, spokesman for the National Election Committee, said “right now, all political parties have the right to educate people, but only for voter registration”, but added the NEC had no information about this case.
Sam Kuntheamy, executive director of election monitor Nicfec, also stressed parties’ right to share information with voters, which has been lacking.
“If anyone bans them, they are wrong,” he said, calling on the CNRP to complain to the Provincial Election Committee.
Voter registration nationwide has been sluggish, with Kuntheamy saying that only about 20 percent of the estimated 1.6 million people eligible to register to vote have done so.
He pointed to a recent report from his observers attributing the low numbers to “limited” voter registration information after the shuttering of several radio stations, recent heavy rains and the tense political environment, which has “discouraged” some people. “It’s very concerning,” he said.