Constitutional Council to Hear Voter Registration Complaints

The Constitutional Council of Cambodia will today start hearing claims from the opposition CNRP that more than 2,400 non-citizens were recently added to the country’s voter rolls, days after the government’s National Election Committee threw out the same complaints.

The opposition claims that 2,441 people were added to the rolls during the government’s latest registration drive, which ended in November, despite lacking proper citizenship papers. The CNRP admits that it has not investigated their citizenship records, basing its claims largely on the individuals’ alleged lack of Khmer language fluency.

cam photo voters KHMER
National Election Committee member Em Sophat, center, speaks at a press conference in Phnom Penh on the last day of voter registrations. Election officials said that 81 percent of eligible voters had enrolled for next year’s commune elections, and that 97 formal complaints had been lodged with the body during the three-month registration period last year. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

A statement on the Constitutional Council’s website says it will hear the complaints from today through Wednesday.

On Friday, the spokesman for the election committee, Hang Puthea, said his body had already rejected all of the CNRP’s complaints, seen by some as the latest example of the populist anti-Vietnamese tactics often employed by the opposition.

“We’ve decided to keep those names on the lists,” Mr. Puthea said. “There is no legitimate evidence at all.”

During the committee’s investigation, the opposition’s lawyers could not provide evidence to back up their claims, resorting only to accusations about the registrants’ alleged Vietnamese heritage, Mr. Puthea said.

“They were just claiming that they were Vietnamese nationals who always go to Vietnam on Vietnamese New Year and just speak the Yuon language at home,” he said, using a sometimes derogatory term for Vietnamese.

“For instance, some speak the Khmer language with an unclear accent; this could not be used for legitimate consideration,” he added.

Contacted again on Sunday, Mr. Puthea repeated that the people the opposition had complained about had the necessary government-issued identity cards to register. Whether they had the citizenship documents needed to legally obtain those cards, he added, was beyond the election committee’s purview.

Meng Sopheary, a lawyer and head of election and legislative affairs for the CNRP, has argued that the legitimacy of identity cards must also be probed to ensure clean electoral rolls.

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