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US Ambassador: Keep Voters Registering as Long as Possible

Potential voters should have every chance available to register for impending national elections, US Ambassador Joseph Mussomeli said Tuesday.

Speaking from a neighborhood in Phnom Penh where he was observing the registration process, Mussomeli said the registration centers should stay open as long as possible to ensure that people who want to vote can.

Cambodia's elections were a chance for the country to demonstrate to its neighbors—including Burma—how democracy works, he said.

The Burmese junta has been roundly rebuked for its ongoing, violent crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators.

"This is the chance for Cambodia to show many of its neighbors, especially Burma, and other countries, [the process of] a democratic election," he said. "Therefore Cambodia must ensure that the election will be free, fair and safe."

The ambassador told Cambodians through an interpreter that the registration process seemed to be going well.

Cambodia saw a huge plummet in voter numbers in this year's local elections, raising concern among monitors that the registration process was preventing people from voting.

The registration process has also come under fire from opposition groups who say laws and regulations tilt the process in favor of the ruling Cambodian People's Party.

Government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said the government had "vowed" to make the elections free and fair.

"This is a position stated in the constitution," he said, "and no one has the right to change it."