Complaints Voiced of ‘Vietnamese Voters’

Responding to complaints that non-Cambodians may be registering to vote in upcoming elections, the National Election Com­mittee general secretary urged political parties Saturday to file complaints about irregularities.

But Im Suorsdei added that those with complaints should have proof the person in question is not eligible to vote.

He was responding to questions Saturday on rumors that ethnic Vietnamese who could not speak Khmer had been registered to vote in Phnom Penh’s Chbar Ampou commune.

“If someone knows clearly that people who register are not Cam­bodian, that they are Viet­nam­ese, that person can file a complaint against them—if he or she has enough proof,” Im Suor­sdei said. “Anyone can file a complaint and request that these people’s names be canceled from registration.”

However, he stressed that ethnic Vietnamese who have proper Cambodian identification are eligible to vote.

Cambodian reporters implied Saturday at a press conference that the Vietnamese had obtained false identification papers.

Im Suorsdei responded that electoral officials have the power to question any documents they suspect are fraudulent.

“If [would-be voters] have en­ough documents but do not speak Khmer clearly, the registration officials, according to their training, can use their discretion to refuse to register them,” he said. “The center in Chbar Am­pou chose to ignore this problem, and we have received many complaints.”

Supporters of the Sam Rainsy Party complained last week that many Vietnamese were being registered, implying that the CPP, which enjoys popularity among the Vietnamese, is trying to pack the registration rolls.

However, observers from the Asian Network for Free Elections said over the weekend that they were concerned about the opposite problem—that ethnic minorities eligible to vote would be denied the right.

Also Saturday, Im Suorsdei said figures would be available today on how many people registered last week, the first week of the 28-day registration period. The NEC estimates about 5.5 million Cambodians are eligible to vote.

He said that, despite communication problems and confusion about where to register, the registration process was on track.

And he disputed suggestions that the procedure might have gone more smoothly if the NEC had had more time to organize instead of rushing to hold elections by July 26. “Everything is going as planned,” he said.

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