Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Voter language issue raised



Voter language issue raised

National Election Committee president Sik Bun Hok (left) last week speaks to journalists in Phnom Penh, where he questioned the eligibility of lawmakers facing court charges to register as voters. Photo supplied
National Election Committee president Sik Bun Hok (left) last week speaks to journalists in Phnom Penh, where he questioned the eligibility of lawmakers facing court charges to register as voters. Photo supplied

Voter language issue raised

With little more than a fortnight until voter registration begins, the perennial election issues of voters’ nationality and eligibility have resurfaced, with the opposition party vowing a public forum on citizenship.

The workshop was announced yesterday by Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) lawmaker Eng Chhay Eang in response to comments to members of the National Election Committee (NEC) that the body would register people with Cambodian identification cards, even if they are unable to speak Khmer.

Chhay Eang said the party would gather legal experts to examine and debate the law on nationality and immigration. He said the authorities might have broken the law by giving ID cards to foreigners who could not speak the language, and further problems would flow from letting them vote.

“In this case, if the foreigner takes an identification card that is issued illegally by the authorities to register to vote, what kind of crime is this and who will resolve all these problems?” he asked.

Although under Cambodian law, speaking and reading Khmer is a condition of naturalisation, anyone born in the Kingdom is automatically considered a citizen.

However, as many ethnic Vietnamese, as well as ethnic minorities, remain undocumented despite living in Cambodia for generations, issues of nationality, migration and eligibly have plagued elections – with the CNRP long-criticised for stoking anti-Vietnamese sentiment to drum up popular support.

In 2013, mobs of opposition supporters manned some election booths to block people they considered “illegal Vietnamese” from voting.

Responding yesterday, CNRP president Sam Rainsy said the party simply wanted to see the law followed.

“We only call for a strict implementation of the immigration law, the nationality law and the election law,” he said, via email.

Top Neth, a spokesman for the Ministry of Interior’s General Department of Identification, said he was unaware of reports of fake or illegally issued ID cards, though he acknowledged that did happen.

He said if the NEC was unable to resolve irregularities with ID cards at a sub-national level, then the national authorities would step in.

Koul Panha, head of election watchdog Comfrel, said NEC officials could recommend the Interior Ministry investigate in instances where people with ID cards were unable to speak Khmer, adding that their vote should still count if they have been properly registered.

Meanwhile, Comfrel said it planned to ask the NEC to clarify its position on whether politicians facing legal action would be eligible to register as voters.

That followed a suggestion on Friday by NEC member Sik Bun Hok that Rainsy and his deputy Kem Sokha might not be eligible to register as voters as they are “under the judgment of the law”.

The two men are among several opposition members facing legal cases that are widely considered to be politically motivated. To date, only Rainsy has been convicted.

Under the law, anyone convicted and sentenced cannot register to vote until they are “rehabilitated”.

MOST VIEWED

  • Municipal hall releases map detailing colour coded Covid risks by commune

    Phnom Penh municipal governor Khuong Sreng released an official map detailing the red, yellow and dark yellow zones within the city under the new lockdown orders for Phnom Penh announced on April 26. The designation of red, dark yellow and yellow corresponds to areas with high,

  • Inter-provincial travel ban lifted; Phnom Penh and Takmao not exempted

    The government on April 25 decided to lift the inter-provincial travel ban and the closure of tourist attractions across the country, effectively immediately. The travel ban and closures of all resorts were imposed on April 6 and 17 respectively in a bid to curb the spread of Covid-19,

  • Phnom Penh, Takmao lockdown extended for another week

    The government late on April 26 announced an extension of lockdown in Phnom Penh and adjacent Takmao town in Kandal province for another seven days – or longer if residents do not comply with Covid-19 preventive measures and the community outbreak does not subside – until May 5. According

  • Phnom Penh unveils rules for post-lockdown transition

    The Phnom Penh Municipal Administration issued a set of detailed guidelines for the seven days to May 12 after the capital emerges from lockdown at the onset of May 6. In the 14-page document signed by municipal governor Khuong Sreng released on the evening of May 5, the

  • Gov't mulls extension of Phnom Penh, Takmao lockdown

    The Inter-ministerial National Commission for the Control and Enforcement of Lockdown held a video conference meeting on April 25 to review a draft document on the extension of lockdown in Phnom Penh and adjacent Kandal province’s Takmao town. The meeting was chaired by Minister of

  • Gov’t issues guidelines as lockdown nears end

    The government has issued a five-page set of instructions to be enforced when the three-week lockdown of Phnom Penh and adjacent Takmao town in Kandal province ends on May 6. According to an announcement signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen on May 4, the instructions cover a