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Disabled ‘excluded from vote’

A woman holds her identification card as she waits in line to vote during the general elections in 2013. A new study indicates that identity cards are frequently refused to people with disabilities.
A woman holds her identification card as she waits in line to vote during the general elections in 2013. A new study indicates that identity cards are frequently refused to people with disabilities. Heng Chivoan

Disabled ‘excluded from vote’

Disabled people in Cambodia may frequently be excluded from the election process, according to a new study that is to be released next week that indicates local authorities consistently refuse to issue identity cards to the physically and developmentally disabled.

Kun Vichetra, the executive director of Koma Pika Foundation, which supports the rights of disabled children, said he believes between 60,000 to 70,000 people may face discrimination due to their disabilities, based on intellectual impairment, memory problems and being unable live or attend school independently.

Vichetra said his findings are based on extensive work within the community, where he found parents play a key role in advocating for their children, but this is often class-based.

“If their parents are not rich or well off, they will be ignored by the authorities,” he said.

“Most critically disabled people have no identity card because of the limited acknowledgement by local authorities who regard them as useless people,” said Ngin Savoroath, director of NGO Disabled People in Cambodia.

“[Authorities] ignore them and do not provide them with social services.”

The secretary of the Disability Council at the Social Affairs Ministry, Em Chanmakara, denied these allegations, claiming that the study was not based on available evidence.

“We have not seen any disabled people file complaints that they have not been able to vote because of this.

The study does not have clear documents and witnesses,” he said.

Deputy General Director of the General Department of Identification for the Interior Ministry Brok Mayoudom, said that authorities have advised local officials on the correct attitudes and treatment of people with disabilities, and pregnant women.

“We have introduced them to how to be polite to people with disabilities and pregnant women,” he said.

“But if there is a case where discrimination happened, I would ask for tolerance and urge those victims to tell us and file a complaint.”

In response, Koma Pika Foundation noted that a lack of legal complaints does not mean that exclusion had not occurred, but that many disabled people may not have the access to or the opportunity to advocate for themselves.

According to Chanmakara, the Institute of Statistics recorded at least 300,000 people with developmental or physical disabilities in Cambodia in 2013, a figure that had increased to over 500,000 by 2015.

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