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At White House, Demonstrators Call for Cambodian Election Reform

WASHINGTONTON DC - A group of Cambodian-American demonstrators gathered in front of the White House in Washington on Wednesday, to protest what they say is a poor election process in Cambodia.

The showing in Washington coincided with a similar protest in Phnom Penh Wednesday, demanding reforms from Cambodia’s National Election Committee ahead of July polls.

More than 100 Cambodians from across the Eastern seaboard gathered in Washington, calling for election reforms and a cut to military spending to the Cambodian government. They held placards that read, “We want a fair election,” and, “Reform the NEC now.”

“We came today to ask President Obama to help Cambodians,” said Mary Chea, 61, as she stood holding a banner in front of the White House. “We’ve consistently lived in an environment of suffering for the past 30 years, until today. We still suffer in the face of non-stop killing. It’s the 21st Century, but people live like animals.”

The protesters also said opposition leader Sam Rainsy should be allowed to return to Cambodia and contest the elections, a proposition that Cambodian leaders have said is not possible, as he faces a criminal prison sentence on his return.

The UN and other Western observers have said they want to see Sam Rainsy allowed to contest the elections, and have called on similar reforms to the election process.

Opposition officials from the Cambodia National Rescue Party say the July elections will not be credible without the return of Sam Rainsy, who claims the charges against him are politically motivated, and without reforms to the election process, including a revised voter registry, which they say is missing more than 1 million names.

“It’s fundamental and vital for the nation to choose a leader that the voters wish for,” opposition spokesman Yim Sovann told “Hello VOA” earlier this week.

Wednesday’s protest at the White House coincided with a demonstration in Phnom Penh, where protesters gave a petition to the National Election Committee calling for reforms.

NEC Secretary-General Tep Nitha said Thursday the petition would not be reviewed by the government’s election body.