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

  • New US bill ‘is a violation of Cambodian independence’

    After a US congressmen introduced bipartisan legislation that will enact sanctions on Cambodian officials responsible for “undermining democracy” in the Kingdom, government officials and the ruling Cambodian People’s Party on Sunday said they regarded the potential action as the “violation of independence and sovereignty

  • Angkor Wat named as the top landmark for the second year

    Travel website TripAdvisor has named Cambodia’s ancient wonder Angkor Wat as the top landmark in the world for the second year running in their Travelers’ Choice Award 2018, an achievement Cambodian tourism operators expect will attract more tourists to the Kingdom. The website uses traveller

  • Ministry’s plan for net sparks fears

    The government has ordered all domestic and international internet traffic in the Kingdom to pass through a Data Management Centre (DMC) that has been newly created by the state-owned Telecom Cambodia, in a move some have claimed is an attempt to censor government critics. Spokesman

  • Hun Sen detractors ‘will die’

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday said those who curse or insult him would eventually die without a plot of land to bury their bodies after being killed by lightning, suffering the same fate as those who recently died in Thmar Baing district in Koh