NEC to meet over migrants’ voting rights

Khy Sovuthy / Khmer Times No Comments Share:
More than one million voting-age Cambodians work in Thailand alone. Supplied

The National Election Committee will on Thursday hold a meeting to discuss the registration of migrant workers to vote in the upcoming 2018 national election.

The scheduled meeting follows a round-table discussion on the issue last month between civil society organisations and an NEC representative.

During the roundtable, several NGO leaders requested the NEC review the subject, suggesting the millions of migrant workers abroad could be registered and then vote at embassies, consulate offices or temporary voting centres set up along the border, especially with Thailand.

CPP spokesman Sok Eysan said after the round-table the suggestions were impossible, because laws would need changing in order to facilitate such a system. Currently, voters must be in the country in order to register and vote.

NEC spokesman Hang Puthea said yesterday that Thursday’s meeting is a starting point on the complicated subject.

Mr Puthea said the opposition CNRP and ruling CPP have often butted heads over the issue, and noted that only the government could amend the laws, not the NEC.

“It cannot happen without an amendment to the law,” Mr Puthea said, adding the NEC cannot even issue a formal request to amend the law because it is an independent body.

Elections watchdog Comfrel issued a statement yesterday saying lawmakers should amend the law to facilitate out-of-country registration and voting in order to ensure a fully free and fair election next year.

“Lawmakers should request an amendment to the national election law to provide the power for the NEC to register migrant workers who work abroad via embassy officials,” the statement said, noting that such a system could first be tested in Thailand, where more than one millions workers reside.

CNRP spokesman Son Chhay said he hopes the two parties can unite on the issue and ensure migrant workers are not disenfranchised for the 2018 election. “The CNRP’s lawmakers will work hard to cooperate with the CPP’s lawmakers to discuss migrant worker registration and facilitate it,” Mr Chhay said. “We must only think of the voting rights of the people, and not about their political leanings.”

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