Registration Woes Reported By Observers

The massive task of registering Cambodia’s 6.2 million voters continued to meet with complications on the third day as obser­vers again reported being shut out of registration sites and potential voters claimed confusion over how to register.

“We see a lot of problems,” said Sek Sophal of the Cambodian election monitor Coalition for Free and Fair Elections. “Some people are waiting for two or three hours, then giving up and going home.”

Sek Sophal said many voters and election workers are not well-informed on how to register. Ad­ditionally, only 80 of Coffel’s volunteer observers received their identification cards on Monday, he said. The ID cards are re­quired for observers to enter registration sites.

Iv Borin, a member of the NGO Coordinating Committee, said even those observers with identification cards are not being allowed into some registration sites. National Election Com­mittee workers have been telling ob­servers that the sites are too small to accommodate the observers.

Sek Sophal said, in fact, many registration sites are too small to accommodate large amounts of people. “People are jumping in and out of windows,” he said. “They should have found registration places that are bigger and easier.”

Between July 21 and Aug 16, the NEC’s 2,160 registration teams will visit the nation’s 1,621 communes, spending three days in each commune registering voters. The election is scheduled for February.

NEC vice president Kassie Neou on Monday referred questions on voter registration to NEC secretary-general Im Suosdey.

Im Suosdey’s phone was turned off Monday.

Government spokesperson Khieu Kanharith said registration problems have come from local officials who have been disorganized and “inactive” in informing commune residents of the registration process.

“The CPP has given them a lot of information,” he said Monday. “But even my wife this morning didn’t know where to register.”

In Bakheng commune in Kandal province’s Muk Kampul district, one voter registration site is on the grounds of a pagoda. But an elderly man working at the pagoda refused to acknowledge that it was a registration station, demanding to know first to which political party the questioner belonged.

At a registration site in Phnom Penh’s Russei Keo district, a worker said she would not register potential voters who have not yet turned 18, even though the law states that people who turn 18 before the election can sign up to vote.

Opposition party leader Sam Rainsy said in a statement that the first few days of voter registration has been “marred by serious irregularities that bode ill for the whole election process.”

He said most people who have registered are supporters of the ruling CPP who have been invited and escorted by officials through the registration process. Non-CPP supporters have not been given information on how and when to register, he said.

“No voter education has been conducted on a significant scale…showing a real intent on the part of the government to hinder the people’s understanding,” the Sam Rainsy statement said. “The Hun Sen regime is more than reluctant to organize any credible election because [they] now know that they would lose any election meeting internationally recognized standards of democracy.”

Surveys have indicated that Cambodians do not automatically know that they must register to vote.

A July/August 2000 survey funded by the Asia Foundation found that only 29 percent said they were aware that they would need to register for the upcoming election. Of those people who were aware, only 42 percent assumed that all voters would need to register, as is currently required.

(Reporting by Matt Reed, Ana Nov, Brittani Sonnenberg and Richard Sine)


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