Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Disabled voters left behind in Kingdom




Disabled voters left behind in Kingdom

A disabled woman is helped by a volunteer to cast her vote during the national Commune elections earlier this month. Cambodian Disabled People's Organization
People help a disabled man enter a polling station that lacks a wheelchair ramp during this month’s commune elections. Cambodian Disabled People's Organization

Disabled voters left behind in Kingdom

People with disabilities still lack access to polling stations, research from a local rights organisation has found.

After monitoring 80 polling stations across the country during the commune elections on June 4, the Cambodian Disabled People’s Organization (CDPO) wrote that they “found some issues that people with disabilities could not claim their full rights for political participation”.

These issues included voters not being able to access polling stations without assistance due to obstacles like stairs or gravel. Additionally, voter lists or ballot boxes placed too high created difficulties for voters in wheelchairs.

Some polling station spaces, meanwhile, were too narrow for wheelchairs, and blind people could often not vote secretly because of a lack of awareness among poll workers that ballots with braille are available.

The report, obtained by The Post this week, will be publicised in a shorter form later this month, according to CDPO Advocacy Officer Mak Monika.

The lack of voting accessibility for the disabled has been criticised by NGOs for years. Yoeung Rithy, Handicap International deputy operation coordinator, conducted research into the issue in 2013 and said that little has changed. “The [voter] registration process is really good now, but the lack of physical access to polling stations is still the same,” he said.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
A disabled woman is helped by a volunteer to cast her vote during the national Commune elections earlier this month. Cambodian Disabled People's Organization

He argued that the main problem is that public buildings often fall short on accessibility. Moreover, staff lack training on how to accommodate people with disabilities. “That’s why the polling stations need to train . . . so people with visual impairments and blind people can vote,” he said.

The Ministry of Social Affairs and the government’s Disability Action Council could not be reached yesterday, but Rithy said DAC was cooperating with Handicap International to draft accessibility guidelines. The National Election Committee could not be reached.

One of those who couldn’t vote is Yoeun Sot, 19, from Svay Rieng. She said she was told that she could not register her name because she is blind.

“I couldn’t vote, because when the village chief told people to register, I asked him: ‘Can I vote?’, but he replied: ‘You cannot because voting is confidential, and you don’t know how to tick [the box], and as there is no braille document it’s difficult,’” she said.

“I don’t think he discriminated against me – he just doesn’t know what to do. Now I feel regret, because I didn’t vote.”

Additional reporting by Kong Meta

MOST VIEWED

  • Hungarian exposes 90 to Covid in Siem Reap

    The Ministry of Health has discovered 90 people who have been exposed directly or indirectly to a Hungarian man infected with Covid-19. They all are required to quarantine at home and the hospital. The ministry is searching for other affected people. Among the 90, one is the

  • PM warns of ‘new Cold War’

    Prime Minister Hun Sen said the possibility of a so-called new Cold War has become a significant concern and that all countries have to reject outright, any attempt to allow history to tragically repeat itself. He made the remarks in a speech during 75th Session

  • PM: West unfair to Cambodia

    Prime Minister Hun Sen released a message celebrating the International Day of Peace on Monday, saying that some major powers and western countries had been systemically cooperating to put political pressure on Cambodia as they did in the 1970s and 1980s. Hun Sen said pressuring

  • ‘Bad news is an investor’s best friend’ – unlocking investment potential in Cambodia

    It is time to shop. Economic woes provide good pickings for investors if they know where to look The poem If, written by English Nobel laureate poet and novelist Rudyard Kipling for his son circa 1895, is widely perceived as fatherly advice for John who would

  • Cambodia, CRF win rice battle in EU Court

    The European General Court has rejected the European Commission’s (EC) request to reject a complaint submitted by Cambodia and the Cambodian Rice Federation (CRF) regarding the EU’s reintroduction of tariffs on Indica rice exports from Cambodia. A court order uploaded to the European

  • PM requests Russia’s Covid vaccine

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has requested that Russia provide Cambodia with its Covid-19 vaccine after the former announced it planned on mass vaccinating its population next month. The request came on Thursday through the prime minister’s Facebook page as he met with Anatoly Borovik,