The National Election Committee will likely extend the voter registration period in selected communes, responding to the repeated pleas of NGOs who say many eligible voters still have not been put on the voter list.
The number of new voters registered so far—760,236 as of Friday—falls far short of the target of 1,559,000. NEC Chairman Im Suosdey said he would decide today or Tuesday which communes should have registration extended.
Communes that had encountered obstacles such as an absent commune clerk or other glitches in the process would have their registration periods extended, he said in a meeting with NGOs on Saturday.
The NEC would also look at the communes’ registration statistics to determine which still had large numbers of people to register and which had finished registering everyone already. The former would have more time to finish registering everyone, Im Suosdey said.
The NGOs on Saturday blamed the registration shortfall on commune councils—which are charged with enrolling new voters—not understanding the registration process and on a lack of voter-education efforts to teach people about registration procedures.
“It is a shame if people lose the right to vote” because they failed to register, said Koul Panha, president of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections. “It is very important that 100 percent of the eligible people register to vote, even if they don’t end up voting.”
Koul Panha recommended that registration—scheduled to end Saturday—be extended in any commune that has registered less than 90 percent of its eligible voters. He also suggested that these communes be given mobile registration offices to seek out potential voters who can’t reach the commune centers.
Thuon Saren, adviser to the Kampuchea Krom Human Rights Association, also expressed concern about voting rights for ethnic Khmers living in Cambodia who were born in the Mekong Delta of southern Vietnam.
By law, people of Khmer ethnicity are entitled to Cambodian citizenship, therefore they should be allowed to vote in Cambodia, Thuon Saren said. But authorities regularly deny them voter eligibility, he claimed.