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NEC Seeks to Lower Travel Costs for Voters

The National Election Committee said Monday it hoped to reduce the price of transportation during the election period by appealing to the Ministry of Transportation and individual transport companies, in a bid to help impoverished voters reach their homes to vote.

Tep Nitha, secretary-general of NEC, told reporters Monday the committee would send letters to relevant ministries and companies requesting help in reducing travel costs for voters ahead of and after Election Day, July 27.

Muth Chantha, spokesman for the Norodom Ranariddh Party, said most factory workers were not going to vote because they did not have enough money for transportation, and the party had requested the NEC help with the problem.

Transportation prices generally increase during national ceremonies and elections.

About 340,000 factory workers live in Phnom Penh, but most of them come from the provinces, where they are registered to vote. Many are feeling the bite of the rising costs of goods and fuel, which could prevent them from voting.

In order to help them vote, workers from neighboring provinces or Phnom Penh will be given Election Day off to vote. Those from Kandal, Kampong Speu and Kampong Chhnang provinces will have two days off, and those from farther-flung provinces will have three days off.

Chum Iek, secretary of state for the Ministry of Transportation, said Cambodia's free-market policies made it difficult to require companies to lower costs, but the ministry would seek their help after receiving an official request from the NEC.

Union leaders have said in the past they hope to charter transportation to bring workers to vote, but those unions are typically party-aligned, and the busing of voters on Election Day by political parties is illegal, Tep Nitha said.