banlung, Ratanakkiri province – Election workers in this northeastern province are racing to get eligible voters registered for this year’s poll before weather makes already poor roads completely impassable.
“Some of the offices are far and the rains are starting, so we worry we may not be able to get a lot of the people registered in time,” said Kep Chuk Tema, the governor of Ratanakkiri.
The work ahead is formidable. There are more than 40,000 eligible voters in Ratanakkiri province, the governor estimated. Only about 10 percent live in the provincial capital of Banlung, local election workers said.
The rest live in remote villages connected by dirt roads and paths through thick forests.
“We have no way to get to some of these villages. Some of them we can only reach on foot,” Kep Chuk Tema said.
There is only one paved road in Ratanakkiri—about 50 meters long in the center of Banlung.
Election materials arrived by plane last week, with the last of it—including money to pay registration workers—arriving Friday, local election workers said.
By Saturday, election workers were already starting long treks to remote areas—traveling by car, boat and foot to northern parts of the province to deliver materials.
Local Funcinpec members said they spent last week training villagers in every district except remote Taveng near the Laos border to watch the registration process. Party workers had trained about 190 people by Saturday, said Kheoun Hon, an officer in Funcinpec’s provincial headquarters.
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