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Disabled Cambodians Seek Electoral Reform

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PHNOM PENH, (Khmer Times) — In a country that is rife with problems of enormous scale, Cambodia’s disabled community is pushing to bring awareness and further change to the electoral process.
The Himawari Hotel played host to a forum focused on bringing reforms to the voting process to better serve people with disabilities. Representatives from some of the agencies sponsoring the organization’s work were on hand to address the crowd.
Carmina Sanchis Ruescas, of International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), said, “Events like this are very important in bringing specific requests to the government, and awareness to the able bodied-people of Cambodia. IFES has been working here for several years now (since 2010) and there has been positive change but more needs to be done.”
The most obvious of the problems encountered by prospective voters was a lack of wheelchair accessibility. In cases, polling stations were located on the second or third floors with no elevator access or in buildings with narrow doorways.
Ngin Saorath, executive director of the Cambodian Disabled People’s Organization (CDPO), the group behind today’s forum, said, “In one situation, we had the people working at the polling station carry a person in their wheelchair up to the second floor.”
A blind speaker told of the painful experience he endured when attempting to vote. In the Battambang area, he told of the verbal abuse he suffered at the poll, showing the non-inclusive nature that is still evident in society here. 
“Their words cut like an arrow, but I am strong of heart so I will not stop fighting for our right to vote.” He also mentioned of the lack of Braille enabled ballots.
The representative from the National Election Committee (NEC), Sokolac Tipor, said they are seeking to be pre-emptive in their approach.  “It is like going to the doctor when you are already not well, we want to fix the health (of the system) before it is sick.”
The forum featured speakers highlighting frustrations from a variety of disabled factions. Persons with no sight, no hearing ability and those bound to a life in a wheelchair, were all given a chance to voice their own specific needs for change.

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