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Only One in Ten Migrant Workers Registered to Vote: Advocate

  • Kimseng Men

Chhoun Chheng shows his registration slip after authority in Pailin province allowed him to register there. Chheng was refused twice before at two other provinces.

Chhoun Chheng shows his registration slip after authority in Pailin province allowed him to register there. Chheng was refused twice before at two other provinces.

Chhoun Chheng, who works in the same factory as Sert, said that he was refused the opportunity to register twice, once in Battambang and another time in Banteay Meanchey.

Only one in ten migrant workers have registered to vote in local elections next year with only five days left before the registration period ends, a labor rights workers has estimated.

Dy Thehoya, senior program officer with labor rights watchdog Central, said his organization believed that only 10 percent of the roughly one million migrant workers in Thailand had registered to vote because of hindrances they faced in the process.

“We are concerned for these people, who are the owners of the country and its destiny, but will miss the opportunity to register to vote because of challenges they face,” he told the Hello VOA radio show on Thursday.

Issues Thehoya said had led to such a low turnout included a lack of official requests made to Thailand to allow migrant workers to return home to register and no mechanisms being put in place in Thailand that would have allowed them to vote.

“This is due to the lack of a concrete plan to assist workers,” he added.

The registration period began on September 1 and will end on November 29.

Chhay Sert, a migrant worker in Thailand, said he had been active in trying to encourage his colleagues to register, but many had become frustrated and given up.

A lack of documentation proving where they were from in Cambodia had been “a major obstacle,” he said. “Once workers saw that they were afraid.”

However, he said that more than 700 Cambodian workers at his factory out of a workforce of some 3,000 had managed to register.

Chhoun Chheng, who works in the same factory as Sert, was refused the opportunity to register twice, once in Battambang and another time in Banteay Meanchey.

“We were mainly refused by village and commune chiefs,” said Chheng, “because they said we didn’t have permanent residence there. We were not their villagers so they refused to help us and issued a denial statement instead.”

Chheng’s third attempt, in Pailin, a former Khmer Rouge stronghold, paid off. He was able to register.

The National Election Committee has so far registered about 7.4 million people out of 9.6 million eligible voters.

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