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Disabled voters strained at poll

Pech Sotheary / Khmer Times Share:

Despite praise the National Election Committee is getting for organising the national election on Sunday, an organisation representing disabled citizens said yesterday that some handicapped voters faced difficulty casting their ballots.

Ngin Saorath, executive director of the Cambodian Disabled People’s Organisation, said yesterday that the NEC had provided extra care in facilitating their vote.

However, Mr Saorath said that ballot boxes were too high and voting booths too narrow, making it difficult for disabled people in a wheelchair.

“The standard of the ballot box and where the entrances and exits to polling stations were placed weren’t good enough,” he said. “The NEC facilitated so much, but their standards are still limited.”

Soy Sakhorn, director of the Representative Self-help Disabilities Organisation in Kampong Cham, said yesterday that disabled citizens continued to face difficulties due to the positioning of ballot boxes and narrow pathways when entering and exiting voting booths.

Mr Sakhorn, himself a disabled person, said he was not given priority status by election officials at the polling station where he voted.

“We can’t stand in line for a long time, some must stand with only one leg,” he said. “When I went to vote, I queued up for about half an hour behind those who weren’t disabled. I had to yell at them for them to allow me to go inside.”

Mr Sakhorn added that NEC officials were not able to accommodate all disabled citizens equally.

Mao Sareth, also a disabled voter, said that he did not face any difficulties voting and that NEC officials prioritised him.

“The election was quiet and smooth. When I went to vote, the NEC prepared an accessible voting booth,” Mr Sareth said. “But the ballot box was still too high.”

NEC spokesman Hang Puthea said that the NEC has never discriminated against people with disabilities. The NEC has in the past made it possible to accommodate disabled voters by placing ramps and providing assistance.

“As for the ballot box, it was standarised, we put them on top of a school table,” Mr Puthea said. “The NEC would like to ask for understanding from disabled voters. We will continue to cooperate with them in order to assist them.”

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