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Officials Face Allegations of Illegal Immigrants on Voter Lists

Opposition leaders Thursday claimed that illegal Vietnamese were being put on voter rosters, as authorities were quick to point out that many Vietnamese do in fact have the right to vote.

The issue of Vietnamese, who may or may not be Cambodian nationals, is common in local and national elections. Ethnic Vietnamese have lived in Cambodia since the 18th Century. An estimated 200,000 of 600,000 were killed in the violence of the 1960s and 1970s, and many fled to Vietnam following the Khmer Rouge takeover.

Many returned after the fall of the Khmer Rouge and are citizens with the right to vote.

But illegal aliens use many strategies to get their names on lists, including bribery and name change, Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Ho Van said Thursday.

SRP second clerk Heng Soth said he had seen registration of "Vietnamese names" undertaken by people who "spoke Khmer with a bad accent."

Commune clerk Chhean Nara said accents were not grounds for voter disqualification.

"What is important is first that person has an ID and second that the people are residents of the local areas," he said. "They have documents to back them up, such as birth certificates or passports."

The debate should not be about names, he said. "The focus is on...what documents the person has."

Comfrel Director Koul Panha said the National Election Committee had not tried to solve the controversy "to the utmost."