Opposition Requests Migrant-Friendly Voter Registration Process

The opposition once again will ask the government to make upcoming voter registration more accessible to an estimated 1 million migrant workers by increasing the number of registration centers near the Thai border.

The CNRP also will ask for the registration period to be extended to a full three months, one of several proposals the National Election Committee (NEC) previously either dismissed outright or said were too premature to discuss.

Mu Sochua, a CNRP vice president, said the party also wanted the NEC to revisit its past decision that requires voters to register in their hometowns, a stipulation that placed a burden on migrant workers coming from Thailand.

Registration centers along the border “at least…would help them with time and cost,” she said.

The NEC also should allow Thai work permits as proof of residence, Ms. Sochua said. The CNRP would also petition the Interior Ministry to cut border crossing fees for migrants coming to register, she said.

The opposition believes that migrants and new voters are likely to vote its way next year, with CNRP President Kem Sokha predicting the party would win two-thirds of what he said were 300,000 first-time voters.

But Khorn Keo Mono, director of the NEC’s communications department, said the current registration window from September 1 through November 9 was generous enough to allow the relatively small number of voters who had not registered last year to return home and do so.

“It is not like millions of people need to register again,” he said. “It’s for people who became 18, which we estimate at less than 1 million people.”

Mr. Keo Mono said the body was too busy finalizing commune election results to consider the CNRP’s other requests, though it has repeatedly blocked past opposition attempts to set up mobile registration centers.

Moeun Tola, head of the labor rights group Central, said many migrants had failed to register for the June 4 commune elections. The government should coordinate with its Thai counterpart to cut fees and ask employers to give Cambodians a paid day off, he said, before making more extensive preparations for Election Day itself.

The government’s rigid approach was not unlike the stance taken by Burma, he said, whose migrant workers traveled back in droves to vote in 2015.

Migrants “sacrificed a lot and they managed to change the country,” he said.

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