With the CPP in the midst of a campaign to woo overseas support, CNRP leader Sam Rainsy told opposition supporters in Toronto over the weekend that it was now time for the ruling party to allow Cambodians living abroad to vote.
Last year, the CPP began a drive to boost its popularity among Cambodia’s diaspora. In May, the CPP sent a letter to overseas branches calling for the recruitment of more members, noting that Prime Minister Hun Sen’s eldest son, Hun Manet, had been put in charge of an initiative targeting Cambodian youth living abroad.
And in June, Mr. Hun Sen issued a directive placing seven newly-appointed ambassadors in charge of CPP working groups in the countries to which they were assigned.
“If [the CPP] ask us to support them, this is our opportunity,” Mr. Rainsy told supporters on Sunday, in a video uploaded to his Facebook page on Tuesday.
“I want our people to question why the government does not allow Cambodians overseas in Canada, the U.S., France, Australia and around the world to have the right to vote like Cambodians that live in Cambodia.”
CPP spokesman Sok Eysan said on Wednesday that there were no plans to allow Cambodians living abroad to vote, adding that he believed Mr. Rainsy’s rhetoric was simply “propaganda.”
“According to the election law, the people who live overseas do not have the right to vote,” Mr. Eysan said, adding that logistics also prevented the possibility of voting abroad.
“It is difficult to control just one commune during an election. If we have voting overseas, who can respond if there are problems?” he said, explaining that the National Election Committee (NEC) simply did not have enough resources.
“How much money does the NEC have? How many staff members does the NEC have? At this time, we cannot do it.”
Koul Panha, executive director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections, said he believed that allowing for voting overseas was more a matter of “political will,” as Cambodia’s current election law included residency requirements for those wishing to vote in the country.
“There is technology available to do this—voting abroad,” Mr. Panha said.
“In Myanmar, you know the GDP per capita is less than Cambodia, but they can afford to do that voting system. Why not Cambodia? Cambodia has had elections since 1993, but Myanmar only recently.”
(Additional reporting by Anthony Jensen)