Civil society organisations yesterday called for migrant workers to be included on the voter list for the upcoming 2018 national election.
Speaking at a roundtable discussion at the Raffles Royal Hotel in Phnom Penh, Sam Kuntheamy, executive director of elections watchdog NICFEC, said the National Election Committee should include migrants working in countries including Thailand, Malaysia and South Korea.
“Please register migrant workers. It would not big a large cost to the NEC’s budget to do this,” he said, adding that the voter list had already been updated this year.
Yong Kim Eng, president of People Centre for Development and Peace, said that if the NEC can register migrant workers who have been working in Thailand, Malaysia, and South Korea, those workers can then cast their votes at embassies within the countries where they work.
“This is an important point that we need to consider,” Mr Kim Eng said.
Moeun Tola, executive director of Central, said millions of Cambodians work aboard and should not be disenfranchised for doing taking jobs outside Cambodia to support their families.
According to Mr Tola, countries with the highest number of migrant workers should be targeted first, like Thailand, where he said at least one million workers live.
Mr Tola said next up would be Malaysia, where about 100,000 workers reside, then South Korea, where there are at least 50,000 workers.
He suggested that Japan also be targeted, since at least 3,000 workers also live there.
“The best thing to do would be to create an election post for these workers in the countries where they reside,” he said.
“I think that if the Cambodian government requests it officially, the Thai government will allow Cambodian migrant workers to get a holiday to come to vote,” Mr Tola added, noting they could do so at election posts set up along the border to make it easier.
CNRP lawmaker Son Chhay said he could not think of any law that would prevent the NEC from implementing the suggestion made at the round table, and noted if there is one, it should be amended.
“I hope that the NEC will confirm what budget they need to make this happen,” he said. “They can create a mobile registration group to register the workers because we need to guarantee their voting rights too.”
CPP spokesman Sok Eysan said he welcomed the registration of migrant workers if it was done properly, noting that registration or voting stations at the embassies was not a good idea and that current laws required workers to return to Cambodia to vote.
NEC vice-director Dy Phyron, who joined the round table, said he would table the NGO’s recommendations to the committee.
“For Cambodian migrant workers abroad who need to register and vote, it involves changing the law because our election laws do not address this issue,” he said. “I will send a report to the NEC.”