UNTAC Launches Voter Sign-Up
Twenty-two-year old Ouch Vuthoeun was one of the first people in Cambodia to register
for the first multi-party election to be held in more thantwo decades. He arrived
at the gate to Wat Ounalaum registration site at 7 a.m. Monday morning, Oct. 5, just
as the doors opened.
"I live right next door in the temple with the monks, so I've known about it
for some days," said Vuthoeun. "It was no problem-it took about ten minutes.
I registered because I want to take part in the election."
After months of planning and backed by a 20,000 page report produced by UNTAC on
the mechanics of or-ganizing a nation-wide election, the first day of voter registration
in Phnom Penh went off without a hitch.
U.N. electoral officials were pleased with the results of Day 1 in what is planned
as a three-month registration pro-cess in prep-aration for elec-tions in May, l993.
"It's been abso-lutely exhilar-ating," said Bob Drew, the prov-incial electoral
official for Phnom Penh, at the end of a long day.
"There were a few moments when we opened and no one was showing up, so we started
registering our own [Khmer] staff. The people went home with the registration cards,
showed them to their families and people started coming in. Tomorrow we'll be old
hands at it."
UNTAC officials reported that 2,509 people showed up to register at the 22 registration
sites throughout the city. On the second day the numbers jumped 80 percent, with
4,450 voters signing up.
Voter registration began in Phnom Penh as a test run for registration in other provinces
throughout the country. Kandal, Svay Rieng, Prey Vieng and Kompong Cham provinces
will begin registering voters on Oct. 19, followed by all other provinces on Nov.
2, except Preah Vihear and Banteay Meanchey. The last two provinces will start the
process on Nov. 23, with the entire exercise concluding on Dec. 31.
UNTAC estimates that there are 5 million people out of a population of 9.2 million
who are eligible to vote.
"We are engaged in very delicate process, carried out by Cambodians who have
been given training to be impartial," said Electoral Component Chief Reginald
Austin. "Many are quite young; enthusiastic and committed to democracy."
"The registration process is meant to be inclusive," Austin added. "Its
an opportunity to collect-in an environment that will engender confidence-the names
of all people who are eligible to vote."
Those coming to sign up are asked a series of questions: First, whether they are
over 18 years of age. If so, whether they were born in Cambodia and if one of their
parents was also born in Cambodia.
If the potential registrant was not born in Cambodia, they then are asked if they
had one parent born here and one grandparent also. Meeting any of these criteria
enables one to register to vote in the upcoming election.
Because many records were destroyed during Cambodia's turbulent history over the
last 20 years, registrars will accept many types of identification as evidence of
eligibility: I.D. cards from any of the factions or the State of Cambodia are considered
valid, as are any other kind of documentation, although docu-mentation is not a requirement.
"There is no government in Cambodia," Austin said. "No one can produce
an identification card that is more legal than another. [UNTAC] will take [into consideration]
whatever document is put forward or any other evidence."
If someone has no documentation whatsoever, they can have two persons accompany them
to swear to the person's nationality.
While there is nothing to stop someone from registering in two places, during the
election itself voters will be marked to enable UNTAC to weed out anyone who tries
to vote twice.
The registration process is structured such that any political party currently registered
with UNTAC can place observers at the registration sites who may challenge any application.
Nine parties have complied with UNTAC's party sign-up process. These include the
Republic Democracy Khmer Party, Funcinpec, the Liberal Democratic Party, the Action
for Democracy and Development Party, the Cambodian Peoples Party, the Buddhist Liberal
Democratic Party, the Parti Democrate, the Cambodian Free Independent Democratic
Party, and the Neutral Democratic Party.
The Party of Democratic Kampuchea, commonly known as the Khmer Rouge, has not complied
with UNTAC's party registration process, and thus, at present, is not eligible to
place observers in the registration sites.
On the second day of registration, one application was contested by a party observer
and upheld by UNTAC. The applicant said that his parents had been born in Cambodia
although it was determined that they had been born in Vietnam, according to UNTAC.
To date UNTAC has trained 800 party agents in how to monitor the registration process.
UNTAC is expecting a relatively low turnout during the first few days of registration.
"We haven't engaged in a vast publicity campaign," said Austin. Many Khmers
who were aware of the beginning of registration learned about it from television
and radio ads produced by the U.N.
Roum Hachim, 23, also registered at Wat Ounalaum site on the first day of registration.
Lacking complete information on what was actually happening, Hachim said, "I
plan to vote on Friday. I will tell my neighbors that you can vote by yourself. No
party will control you."
- Mang Channo contributed to this report.