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Sar Kheng: Don’t discriminate against those who abstained

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Interior Minister Sar Kheng (left) shakes hands with former Cambodia National Rescue Party president Kem Sokha in 2015. Heng Chivoan

Sar Kheng: Don’t discriminate against those who abstained

Minister of Interior Sar Kheng on Wednesday called on authorities, political party members and the public to respect the right of Cambodians not to vote as enshrined in the Constitution.

He made the call after being made aware of complaints of discrimination from people who did not sport ink-stained fingers.

Kheng issued a formal Facebook post requesting “national unity” after allegations of intimidation and threats were made by people who had chosen to abstain from the 2018 national elections on Sunday.

In his post, Kheng instructed authorities at all levels and those affiliated with political parties not to discriminate against people who chose not to vote.

The election turnout was more than 82 percent, he said, which showed that Cambodians clearly understood their democratic rights and had used them freely and without oppression or coercion and that their decision should be respected.

“To continue strengthening the democratic process and national unity, I appeal to people at all levels of authority and all political parties not to accuse or label each other and [discriminate] between those who went to vote and those who did not.

“[We] should consider this [election] victory as a victory for all Cambodians,” Kheng wrote.

The post said the participation of so many Cambodians, the armed forces and national authorities, and all levels of society and all political parties in the 6th national elections showed the world and proved that they are politically mature and that the election process proceeded safely, freely, correctly and fairly.

“[People can] vote freely for a representative from any political party they liked without oppression or coercion,” Kheng’s post said.

Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia (Nicfec) Sam Kuntheamy said he doubted Kheng’s instruction would eliminate division and discrimination at the local level.

He said political discrimination has been a part of Cambodian life for a long time, and although government leaders and the Ministry of Interior have called for an end to it on many occasions, it continues to occur, especially among village and commune chiefs and commune councils.

Kuntheamy said such public figures continue to discriminate politically, and that if people had a different political ideology from them, they would find it difficult to obtain public services at the commune hall.

“If we eliminate discrimination and divisions at the local level, and commune chiefs remained neutral and do not politically discriminate, the villages and communes would develop better,” he said.

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