UN Rights official Rhona Smith met with the National Election Committee of Cambodia to discuss pressing issues surrounding next year’s national election including the government’s decision not to allow nationals living abroad to vote.
“Obviously, my main concern for the election is to ensure that it is conducted in a transparent manner and in a way that is recognised by international law,” Ms Smith told reporters after the meeting at NEC headquarters.
“At the moment, the NEC’s position is that people who are overseas can come back to Cambodia to register and vote, but they cannot register nor vote outside of Cambodia,” she said.
“My hope is that the NEC continues to comply with the law and continues to improve and review the election process in order to create a fair and transparent system.”
NEC spokesman Hang Puthea said Ms Smith asked for clarification on the percentage of people who turned out to vote during the commune election and on complaints of intimidation filed to the NEC.
“The NEC confirmed that there was a voter turnout of 90 percent at the commune elections,” Mr Puthea said. “And the NEC received nearly 60 complaints.”
Mr Puthea said Cambodian migrant labourers overseas would not lose their right to vote, but would need to return to register starting from September 1 to November 9.
“They must come to register in the country, because the law does not allow the NEC to prepare voter registration at borders or from embassies overseas,” Mr Puthea said.
He appealed to Cambodian people living overseas to return to Cambodia for registration.
Executive Director for the Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia Sam Kuntheamy said civil society groups want all Cambodian citizens to vote, especially those living overseas.
“We are sorry to hear that they can’t prepare voter registration overseas,” Mr Kuntheam said. “We don’t see any reason why the government cannot do it.”
Mr Puthea said Ms Smith praised the NEC’s good management and that the neutrality of the NEC was very important to ensure public order and non-violence in the election.