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Observers' drivers to lose their votes

Observers' drivers to lose their votes

IT IS an irony along the lines of "fighting for peace" that some Cambodian

translators and drivers working for foreign election observers are not going to be

able to vote.

Most foreign observers have hired staff who live in Phnom Penh and have registered

to vote here, even though on election day they will be working in other provinces

- where they can't vote.

The Post talked to some Khmer staff who are upset about being disenfranchised but

too scared to say anything publicly for fear of losing their jobs

One driver who will be based in Svay Rieng said his priority had to be economic survival.

"I would like to vote but I have to find the money for living first. If they

allow me to vote I will drive from Svay Rieng to vote here," he said.

But he said he'd probably be too busy on election day visiting various voting stations

to have enough time to get back to Phnom Penh.

"I work for them for a salary so I have to serve them and respect the orders

from them," he said.

He added: "I'm sorry I cannot give you my name because I am afraid my job will

be stoppedwhen they see my name on your newspaper. Maybe they'd fire me."

The problem was identified by UN electoral adviser Jacques Carrio soon after he arrived

in May.

Carrio wrote to the National Election Committee (NEC) asking if observers' staff

could vote where they would be working.

Carrio's letter described the foreign observer missions as being put in a "frightful

dilemma".

The NEC replied that there was no provision in the electoral law for absentee votes

and to change the law was impossible at that late stage, he said.

Carrio understood the NEC's position but he would have been "much happier"

if a solution could have been found.

A driver who was going to Prey Veng said that during UNTAC they could vote anywhere

they wanted but now the rules had been changed.

He said he had not been told he would have to miss out on voting when he was employed.

"Before I started work they didn't ask me where I was registered and if they

had asked me I would not have told them because this [job] is a good one to get money,"

he said.

"So I have to leave the voting to one side and find the money first."

Another driver who is going to Kandal said that he was upset he would miss out on

the vote.

"I work for them, I get my salary from them so if I vote or not is up to them.

If they allow me to vote in the evening I would appreciate it," he said.

"One vote has full meaning and can save the country and can decide the country's

fate."

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