CNRP observers at voter registration offices have witnessed 600 out-of-town soldiers registering in current opposition strongholds and 400 mostly Vietnamese foreigners being put on the voter list despite lacking citizenship papers, party officials said on Sunday.
And two weeks into the three-month registration period, the monitors are reporting that half of the country is still unaware they need to register in order to participate in upcoming commune elections.
In Siem Reap province, 600 soldiers who told observers they were from Oddar Meanchey and Preah Vihear provinces were registered in districts that voted CNRP during the 2012 commune elections, said Sok Kimseng, deputy chief of the party’s provincial executive committee.
“People in the communes will lose their chance to choose their own leaders if people from other areas register despite not actually living there,” Mr. Kimseng said, adding that the irregularities were seen in the districts of Varin, Banteay Srei and Svay Loeu.
Vak Norm, a CPP deputy commune chief at Varin’s Srenoy commune, acknowledged that she had issued letters for some of the soldiers declaring they lived in the area, but “it was the truth because they are permanently based in Srenoy.”
She circumvented a working group made up of election officials and local authorities in issuing the letters, she said, because “there were lots of people who were afraid we wouldn’t finish on time.”
In Phnom Penh and its surrounding provinces, CNRP monitors recorded 400 mostly Vietnamese foreigners successfully registering despite lacking the royal decrees that confer citizenship, said party spokesman Yim Sovann.
Though the issue touches on the opposition’s history of race-baiting rhetoric against Vietnamese people, Mr. Sovann insisted it was simply about following correct procedures.
“We don’t discriminate against anybody,” he said. “We’re talking about implementing the law.”
Mr. Sovann added that 50 percent of the country was still unaware of the need to register, with many thinking they would remain registered after having voted in previous election cycles.