Ethnic-Vietnamese Cambodians Prevented From Voting in Kandal

SA’ANG DISTRICT, Kandal province – Liv Yang Bin, 66, has voted four times, but on Sunday he could not make it a fifth.

Three times on Sunday, Mr. Yang Bin went to his local polling station at a school here in Kandal province, but each time he was met by some 500 local people, who drove him away with their anti-Vietnamese chants.

“I went to the polling station and each time people yelled ‘yuon are not allowed to vote.’ They pushed me and they were so many; I was scared that they would beat me up,” said Mr. Yang Bin, whose family originates from Vietnam, but he was born in Cambodia.

Out of the 50 Vietnamese families in Troeuy Sla commune, Mr. Yang Bin said only 15 people in the commune had the right to vote. And like Mr. Yang Bin, most could not vote Sunday, though most have lived as fishermen in Cambodia for several generations.

Only five of the 15 managed to endure the chants and make their way past the angry crowd inside the polling station to vote, he said.

“We consider ourselves Cambodian. Most of us have lived here for three generations. I have an identity card and my name is on the voter list. I am a citizen, so why can I not vote?” he asked.

The crowd of some 500 Cambodians who were stationed at the polling station disagreed.

“We don’t want the yuon to vote,” said Leang Muchlim, a 37-year-old farmer, using a term considered derogatory to describe ethnic Vietnamese people. “We watched ten of them vote already and then we stopped more from voting because we select a Cambodian government, not a Vietnamese” government, she said.

“This is about our future, the fate of the Khmer people, so let the Khmer decide,” she added.

The scenes here Sunday came after the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party campaigned heavily on an anti-Vietnamese platform for the national election, stating that the ruling CPP are mere puppets of the country’s eastern neighbor and that too many Vietnamese nationals are entering the country to do jobs that Cambodians can do themselves.

District governor Khem Chann Kiry said that polling had gone smoothly until around 8:30 a.m. when Cambodians of Vietnamese origin were prevented from voting.

“We do not allow foreigners to vote, but the Vietnamese who came here had their name on the list so they can vote. The ones who caused the unrest are in the wrong,” Mr. Chann Kiry said, adding that he stayed at the polling station until 3 p.m. with about 15 police and military police.

Mr. Yang Bin’s neighbor, 38-year-old Veal Le, who said that she had lived in  village since she was 5-years-old, was one of the few Vietnamese who managed to cast their vote. Initially, she said, an angry mob had dragged her away.

“I went again at 8 a.m. and police were there and helped me. They told people that I had an identity card and escorted me inside. I was shaking,” Ms. Le said.

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