No Refugees Registration, Says NEC

the cambodia daily

Election officials say they must reject an offer by Thailand to help register the estimated 55,000 eligible Cambodian voters in re­fugee camps.

“We cannot accept this proposal because registration finished on the 15th, and we cannot violate [the electoral] law by extending it,” Leng Sochea, spokesman for the National Election Committee, said Tuesday.

He added that the NEC was “proud” of what he characterized as an extremely successful voter registration period with about 98 percent of the eligible voters registered.

A day after registration ended, however, about 100 garment workers protested that their em­ployers hadn’t allowed them to register. There also have been allegations of voter intimidation.

Thailand’s Foreign Ministry said this week that it stood ready to help register Cambodian re­fu­gees in Thai border camps if Phnom Penh authorities extended the deadline.

“Thailand is ready to facilitate voter registration, so that the Cambodians here can exercise their votes, even though they did not get back on time,” said Kob­sak Chutikul, Foreign Ministry spokesman.

But he declined to say whether voting could take place in the camps if the UN and Thai government failed to repatriate the ref­u­gees before the scheduled July 26 polls.

Nellie Chan, director of the Phnom Penh office of the UN High Commissioner for Refu­gees, said Friday that it looks in­creasingly unlikely that a significant number of the estimated 80,000 refugees in Thailand will be back before the elections be­cause of security risks.

Kobsak said the Japanese For­eign Ministry’s director-general for Asia, Koreshige Anami, would visit Phnom Penh and propose the extension to Second Prime Minister Hun Sen.

When pressed Tuesday whe­ther there was any likelihood of a change of heart by the NEC, Leng Sochea said, “No way.”

(Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse)

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