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Evictees denied vote: report

Evictees denied vote: report

FEWER than half of all evictees are registered to vote in the communes to which they have been relocated, according to a report released Wednesday by an election monitoring NGO.

The report from the Committee for Free and Fair Elections draws from interviews with 244 evictees of voting age and living in three Dangkor district villages, though its authors said that the findings were likely representative of evictees nationwide.

Sok Pitou, a Comfrel investigator, said the report’s purpose was to draw attention to the hurdles evictees must overcome when registering to vote.

“We have observed that in Cambodia now, there are an increasing number of evictions, and we found that some of the evictees face difficulties registering to vote,” he said.

“For example, some did not have identification documents, and some said they were too distant from the registration offices.”

According to the report, 72 percent of evictees surveyed attempted to register to vote in their new communes, but only 58 percent of those who tried were successful, meaning that only 43 percent were registered in the correct place.

Sok Pitou said this would pose a problem for evictees, many of whom are poor, come polling time.

“Evictees are often relocated far from where they originally lived, and it is difficult for some people to go back to vote at their old communes,” he said.

He added that some might return only to find that they are unable to vote because “registration officers sometimes delete the names of residents who no longer live in the commune”.

“We recommend that commune officials visit the evictees to make it easier for them to register to vote,” Sok Pitou said. “Their right to vote should not be affected because they are victims of eviction.”

The report also called on the National Election Committee (NEC) to improve its records and to ensure that all voters have access to information concerning registration.

And it said that the Interior Ministry should ensure that all eligible voters receive identity cards by the end of 2011.

Hy Rong, director of the NEC’s Operations Department, said that the accuracy of voter rolls was dependent on commune chiefs, and that officials were making efforts to ensure that all eligible voters are registered in time for elections in 2012.

“It is impossible to avoid mistakes in election registration, and it is very complicated,” he said.

“But the NEC has been updating those voter lists since 2002, and has made corrections to mistakes for about 3 million names.”

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