The Cambodia National Rescue Party’s attempt to have nearly 5,000 people stricken from the voter rolls ahead of the June commune elections is off to a poor start.
Nearly 170 people whom the CNRP sought to have removed will remain on the list, the National Election Committee decided yesterday after examining the opposition’s first batch of challenges.
In seven separate complaints, the CNRP claimed those names belonged to Vietnamese nationals who could not speak Khmer and should not be entitled to vote, but the NEC said the evidence against them was invalid.
After verifying documents and listening to the complainants and defendants, NEC head Sik Bun Hok said there was insufficient evidence to bump those names from the list, while also noting the organisation’s limitations.
“The NEC does not have the authority to investigate foreigners and found that all the names complained about by the complainants used Cambodian identification cards and registered correctly in accordance with the law,” Bun Hok said.
But the election body will consider a new list of names today, as the CNRP has filed complaints against a total of 4,893 people, most of them Vietnamese.
Ng Yeurng, of Kampong Speu, yesterday admitted he was Vietnamese but said he had been living in the Kingdom since the fall of the Khmer Rouge and deserved the right to vote.
“I was a Vietnamese solider in 1979, but I married a Khmer girl in 1980 and have eight children and also grandchildren here, and I was entitled to vote in UNTAC’s election,” he said.
Another defendant, Hul Maly, 65, from Pailin, said she was outraged.
“I am original Khmer blood and my skin is Khmer, and they accuse me of being Vietnamese. I am very angry,” she said.
“If they delete my name, where I can go?”
Of 181 names submitted by the CNRP, 14 were discovered to have never been on the voter list to begin with, leaving 167 for adjudication.
Only a handful came to the NEC to defend their presence on the list, and CNRP lawyer Sam Sokong said that those were hand-picked by authorities based on their ability to speak Khmer well.
“Only two or three persons in the complaint were called in for questioning and they could speak Khmer fluently, how about the others?” he said.
Koul Panha from election watchdog Comfrel said the NEC could only look at the ID documents, not how they were acquired. “There is a lack of transparency in the government issuing ID cards,” he said.
“The NEC should be thinking about any possibility of fake documents [they] should verify it with the Ministry of Interior database.”
He said the inability to speak Khmer alone was not a sufficient reason for voters to be eliminated from the list, as many ethnic minorities in Ratanakkiri are not fluent in Khmer, but added the CNRP was right to push an issue that concerned Cambodian people.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING ERIN HANDLEY