Illiteracy, poverty, gifts, pressure—and achievement—were all reasons voters in one region of Takeo province, near the Vietnamese border, say they cast ballots for the ruling party.
The voters said they’ve recently gathered to receive gifts from the ruling Cambodian People’s Party in exchange for their votes and were expecting more in coming weeks.
Loey Lay, 55, who has never gone to school, said she had been given a sarong recently, and would fulfill her promise of voting CPP.
“I do not know how to consider, just vote for those who give me the gift,” she said, flanked by her four children and a cow in a field. “I don’t know; I’m illiterate.”
Chan Na, 29, said he had no education, and worried about basics like medication for his children in Chambok Tim village, where he works as a laborer. He was disappointed that his neighbors had received gifts but he hadn’t.
“For those who give me a gift, I’ll vote for, but if they don’t give to me, I’m not going to vote for anyone,” he said.
Many Cambodians face poverty like that found in this outlying area. At least 34 percent of the country is surviving on less than $0.45 per day.
Hun Heng, 57, said he’d received sarongs, a krama, fish sauce and a radio in the past, but he also voted for CPP achievements, including a road and canal in his area. “I will vote for the same party and not change to another fish,” he said.
About 3,000 people of 5,000 in Kiri Chong Koh commune are registered to vote, and the independent Committee for Free and Fair Elections said there have been no serious violations of the election law registered here.
Prak Sarun, of Comfrel’s Takeo office, said people here understand their political rights.
“People take gifts because they are poor and need it, and also to maintain their secrecy,” he said. They may claim allegiance to one party, but vote another.
Kiri Chong Koh chief Prum Chon said gifts were given to everyone, despite their party affiliation. Elections here going “smoothly,” he said.
However, Comfrel has reported minor irregularities in nearby communes and districts, such as the knocking down of party signs.
So Phear, 30, with three living children and two dead in Chhroy Sleng village, said his poverty means he’ll vote for anyone who can make his life better.
“Please help me,” he said. “If I vote for them, and I’m still poor, how can I have a feeling to vote?”