Opposition: Cambodians Based Abroad Should Be Able to Vote

All Cambodian citizens living outside of the country should be allowed to register and vote in the upcoming 2003 general elections, opposition party leader Sam Rainsy said in a statement.

“Under the current constitution, all Khmers are entitled to vote, but their voting rights are being violated,” Sam Rainsy is quoted as saying, speaking to the Cambodian communities living in Sydney and Brisbane, Australia, on Sunday.

If the Sam Rainsy Party takes control of the government, it would would set up voter registration booths and polling stations “in major cities throughout the world through a fund for this important aspect of the democratic process,” Sam Rainsy stated.

Although all eligible Cambo­dians are allowed to register and vote, those living abroad must return to Cambodia to register and cast their ballot in any elections.

The National Assembly has heard arguments for allowing Cambodians living abroad to register and vote without returning to the country but has not passed laws approving this, said Klok Buddhi, Funcinpec parliamentarian and secretary of the Assem­bly’s legislative council.

“We have no law allowing Cam­bodians overseas to vote, but the people living outside [Cambodia’s borders] can return and register and vote,” Klok Buddhi said on Monday. “It’s too expensive for the budget of the National Elec­tion Committee—we cannot set up an election committee in every state of the US or through the general consulate [in Washing­ton].”

The government previously stated that the scheduled July elections would cost an estimated $12.5 million, less than the Feb 3 commune elections. The government has agreed to contribute   $5 million, with donors making up the remaining cost.

Sam Rainsy Party Cabinet Chief Phi Thach estimates that there are between 600,000 and 700,000 Cambodians eligible to vote living in France, Australia, the US and other countries. Ap­prox­imately 20,000 to 30,000 are Sam Rainsy Party members, he claimed.


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