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

  • All foreigners' accommodations to be inspected: Sar Kheng

    The Ministry of Interior is undertaking a serious effort to inspect all the accommodations of foreigners in Cambodia – except diplomats – in order to find and identify human traffickers. Minister Sar Kheng said this would include inspections on the homes of foreigners employed by businesses, private

  • Ice cream, noodles flagged over carcinogen

    The General Department of Customs and Excise of Cambodia (GDCE) has identified three types of instant noodles and ice cream trademarks originating from Thailand, Vietnam and France that are suspected to contain ethylene oxide, which poses a cancer risk to consumers. The general department has

  • Exclusive interview with Josep Borrell Fontelles, High Representative of the EU

    CAMBODIA is hosting the 55th ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (AMM) and Related Meetings this week with top officials from the US, China, and Russia and other countries in the region slated to attend and to meet with face-to-face with their counterparts on the sidelines. In

  • Rise in Thai air routes to Siem Reap fuels travel hopes

    Local tourism industry players are eager for regional airline Bangkok Airways Pcl’s resumption of direct flight services between the Thai capital and Siem Reap town on August 1 – home of Cambodia’s awe-inspiring Angkor Archaeological Park – which is expected to boost the growth rate of

  • ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ meet commences, Taiwan issue possibly on table

    The 55th ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (AMM) and related meetings hosted by Cambodia kicks off in Phnom Penh on August 3, with progress, challenges, and the way forward for the ASEAN Community-building on the table. Issues on Taiwan, sparked by the visit of US House Speaker

  • NBC eyes KHQR payments in Laos, Vietnam

    The National Bank of Cambodia (NBC) is working with Lao and Vietnamese authorities to expand the use of KHQR code cross-border payment systems to promote trade and investment as well as increase the scope of regional economic linkages, and in particular, facilitate remittances from overseas