Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - NEC head deflects blame on migrant voters

NEC head deflects blame on migrant voters

NEC Chairman Sik Bun Hok speaks at a NEC meeting yesterday in Phnom Penh.
NEC Chairman Sik Bun Hok speaks at a NEC meeting yesterday in Phnom Penh. Pha Lina

NEC head deflects blame on migrant voters

National Election Committee (NEC) Chairman Sik Bun Hok yesterday attempted to quell criticism of the electoral body for failing to register migrant voters, insisting that the law did not empower the body to allow overseas voting or registration, and instead passing the buck to political parties to amend the legislation.

Speaking at a consultation workshop on the upcoming registration process, Bun Hok listed multiple laws and relevant articles, including the Constitution, that he claimed did not enable the NEC to register the hundreds of thousands of Cambodians living and working overseas, adding that talk about the rights of voters needed to be tempered with an understanding of the obligations of the NEC.

“We can’t break these laws. This is the limitation for the implementation of the law by the NEC,” he said. “But some people say that we impede the people’s rights.”

NEC chairman Sik Bun Hok speaks at a meeting held by the National Election Commission to discuss the registration process for next year's national elections.
NEC chairman Sik Bun Hok speaks at a meeting held by the National Election Commission to discuss the registration process for next year's national elections. Pha Lina

While none of the laws Bun Hok mentioned laid out procedures for overseas registration and voting, none actually forbade it either.

Civil society groups and the opposition party have been critical of the body for failing to facilitate the registration of migrant workers – of which there may be as many as 1.5 million, mostly spread across Thailand and South Korea. Only 7.6 million of the country’s 9.2 million eligible voters registered last year for the June 4 commune elections.

Bun Hok added that it was up to the government and political parties to amend the laws governing the NEC and the election of National Assembly members, but that it was futile to expect the electoral body to make such changes.

Opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party lawmaker Son Chhay said the two major political parties had left it to the electoral body to decide on allowing overseas Cambodians to vote after the 2013 election, and that no restrictions had been imposed.

NEC chairman Sik Bun Hok speaks at a meeting held by the National Election Commission to discuss the registration process for next year's national elections.
NEC chairman Sik Bun Hok speaks at a meeting held by the National Election Commission to discuss the registration process for next year's national elections. Pha Lina

“Ask Sik Bun Hok which articles of the law stops them from doing it,” he said.

He added that the CNRP was in the process of drafting a new chapter of the Law on the Election of Members of the National Assembly that would specifically pertain to workers overseas, suggesting that embassies and consulates be used as polling stations, or that polling stations be set up at the Thai border.

“The NEC and government must protect the rights of the voters in these countries. But it is up to the CPP if they want to [make these changes], otherwise it will not happen,” Chhay said.

Comfrel legal officer Yoeung Sotheara said only a few civil society organisations had raised the issue at the workshop – not any of the political parties – but insisted that the NEC wasn’t completely helpless to take matters into its own hands.

“They can also make comments in the report they send to the National Assembly,” he said. “They have to do it because they are supposed to be independent and neutral.”

MOST VIEWED

  • Cambodia rejects UN rights claim

    Cambodia's Permanent Mission to the UN Office in Geneva on Friday hit back at David Kaye, the UN special rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression after he raised concerns over the repression of free speech and

  • Ex-party leader, gov’t critic named as secretary of state

    A former political party leader known for being critical of the government has been appointed secretary of state at the Ministry of Rural Development, a royal decree dated July 9 said. Sourn Serey Ratha, the former president of the Khmer Power Party (KPP), told The Post

  • Residence cards set for over 80,000 immigrants

    The Ministry of Interior plans to grant residence cards to more than 80,000 immigrants to better keep track of them. The ministry announced the plan on July 10, following the results of an immigration census. “An inter-ministerial committee and many operational working groups have been set up

  • Fifteen Cambodians from Saudi get Covid-19

    The Ministry of Health on Sunday confirmed 15 more imported cases of Covid. The 15 men ‒ all Cambodian aged 21 to 33 ‒ arrived from Saudi Arabia on Friday via a connecting flight in Malaysia. They were travelling with 79 other passengers, three of them women. The ministry said 80 of the

  • Ministry requests school opening

    The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport on Thursday said it would request a decision from Prime Minister Hun Sen to allow a small number of schools to reopen next month. Ministry spokesman Ros Soveacha said if the request is granted, higher-standard schools will reopen

  • Kingdom eyes India FTA, China deal set for August

    Cambodia is studying the possibility of establishing a bilateral free trade agreement (FTA) with India to open a new market with the second-largest regional economy. This comes as an FTA with China is scheduled to be signed next month while similar negotiations with South Korea

  • Judge lands in court after crashing into alleged thief

    Sen Sok district police on Thursday sent a Koh Kong Provincial Court judge to the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on manslaughter charges after he crashed his car into a woman riding a motorbike on Wednesday, killing her. District police chief Hour Meng Vang told The

  • Vietnamese workers in Koh Kong questioned

    The General Department of Immigration (GDI) is questioning 49 Vietnamese nationals who were working illegally in Koh Kong province to build a case and send them back to Vietnam, its Department of Investigation and Procedure director Kem Sarin said on Thursday. GDI forces and provincial authorities

  • Preah Vihear court drops charges against villagers

    The Preah Vihear Provincial Court has dropped all charges against eight ethnic Kuoy villagers who were in a land dispute with the Hengfu Group Sugar Industry Co Ltd since 2014. Wednesday’s decision was made by the judge who tried the case on June 10. The eight

  • Gov’t to boost Siem Reap tourism

    The Ministry of Tourism released the results of an inter-ministerial committee meeting concerning Siem Reap province’s Tourism Development Master Plan for 2020-2035 on Wednesday, revealing the government’s plan to improve the overall tourist landscape there. The meeting was attended by Minister of Tourism