Thousands of residents evicted from their homes in central Phnom Penh in recent months have been barred from registering to vote in their new commune, SRP officials, rights workers and election monitors claimed on Thursday.
More than 3,000 eligible voters, evicted from Tonle Bassac commune’s Village 14 in June and relocated to Kouk Roka commune in Dangkao district on the outskirts of the capital, were prevented from registering during the 24-day registration period that ended Tuesday, SRP leader Sam Rainsy claimed.
He added that victims of land grabbing around the country have faced similar problems registering for the 2007 commune elections.
The villagers in Andong village were turned away either because they could not prove residency in their new commune, or could not prove Cambodian citizenship, said Kek Galabru, founder of local rights group Licadho. She added that the villagers are not illegal immigrants and should have been registered.
According to the Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free Elections in Cambodia, 379 people registered to vote in the commune, which is now home to more than 1,800 families. Koul Panha, director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections, said commune officials are discriminating against displaced people, who they expect will vote for the SRP.
Keo Phally, the National Election Committee’s legal services director, said that as long as villagers have the documentation required by the NEC, they should have been able to register.
“If they meet all the conditions, no one can bar them,” he said.
Ou Virak, spokesman for the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, claimed the CPP is blocking villagers who it suspects are displeased with the ruling party.
He added that when he visited the Kouk Roka commune office, officials denying villagers registration claimed they were following the orders of higher-ups.
Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said the CPP is not trying to disenfranchise voters. He added that he visited communes during the registration period and found that everything was going smoothly. “There is democratic process,” he said.