Parties Plan to Allow Laborers To Cast Vote Where They Work

The bipartisan working group negotiating a new election law decided in a meeting Friday to allow citizens to vote where they work, making it easier for the hundreds of thousands of migrant laborers in the country, mostly concentrated in Phnom Penh, to cast their ballot.

Bin Chhin, head of the CPP delegation in the talks, said workers would be required to prove their place of residence in order to vote in the communes where they are employed. 

In past elections, much of the industrial work in Phnom Penh has come to a temporary standstill in the days before, during and after the election, with factories told to give their employees time off so they could return to their hometowns to vote.

“We have a plan over the issue of workers working in Phnom Penh, [they] can be allowed to register [to vote] in Phnom Penh, to cease their difficulty” of having to travel to their home provinces, Mr. Chhin said.

“Previously, we only gave consideration to the homes where they live with their parents, but they work in Phnom Penh,” he said. “So now we will require [proof of] residency.”

Mr. Chhin said it should be easy for commune officials to identify garment, construction or other workers who live in rented apartments in their jurisdiction and add legitimate residents to their voter rolls.

“That is why we are planning to write [in the law], making it easier for workers,” he said.

Kuoy Bunroeun, head of the CNRP’s delegation in the talks, said the opposition had also raised the matter of citizens working and living outside the country being allowed to take part in the election.

“We are now also in the process of considering those who are officials and migrant workers working outside the country…to be able to register at the place where they work as well,” Mr. Bunroeun said.

“Every citizen has the same voting right,” he added. “But we are in the process of discussion about this matter because it still needs consideration of the challenges, costs and means of transportation.”

Mr. Chhin, however, dismissed the notion of Cambodians living oversees taking part in the election, explaining that it would simply cost too much.

Asked whether the working group would take into consideration a recent recommendation by the leaders of the country’s Buddhist sects to ban monks from voting, both Mr. Chhin and Mr. Bunroeun said it was not on their agenda.

“For this case, it is necessary for the supreme patriarch to send a request to all related institutions, not to the CPP,” Mr. Chhin said, adding that the constitutional guarantee of universal suffrage would continue to apply to monks.

“Because [voting] is the monks’ right too, as the monks are also human beings,” he explained.

Earlier this week, Tep Vong, the great supreme patriarch of the country’s Mohanikaya Buddhist sect, who was previously a senior CPP party member, proposed passing a law to keep monks away from politics.

Speaking at an annual gathering of top monks in Phnom Penh, Tep Vong called on the National Assembly, Senate and government to push for a law that would require monks to “avoid participating in activities that support or oppose any political party and participating in elections.”

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