Civil society groups and the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party have called on the National Election Committee (NEC) to prepare registration centers for migrant workers who wish to cast a ballot in next year’s general election.
The election is scheduled for July 2018, with voter registration open for 70 days from September 1 to November 9.
Koul Panha, executive director of election monitor Comfrel, said if thorough voter registration procedures for migrant workers were not established early it could negatively impact on the fairness of the election.
He called on the NEC to file a report to parliament to have the law amended to ensure that laborers, both inside and outside the country, were able to vote.
“They should issue a report stating that 1 million migrant workers cannot register to vote and send it to the Assembly,” he said. “Then the lawmakers who have seen the report should make an amendment to allow the laborers to fulfill their duty.”
Son Chhay, CNRP chief whip, said Cambodian embassies in countries with high migrant worker populations should be transformed into polling stations on election day as is customary in other countries.
“The people have a right to elect their favored leader, and as the facilitators we should be responsible for that,” he said.
More than 1.5 million Cambodians are thought to work in Thailand, many undocumented, along with tens of thousands in Malaysia and South Korea.
Moeun Tola, director of labor rights NGO Central, said only about 10,000 migrant workers in Thailand had managed to register ahead of local elections in June and blamed the labor ministry for not announcing a national holiday to allow workers to travel to vote.
Dy Phyron, an NEC representative, said the points raised by civil society and the CNRP would be passed on to the NEC but that installing voter registration centers was beyond the scope of the NEC’s remit.
“If it isn’t in the law, the NEC will not be able to do it,” he said.
Sok Eysan, ruling Cambodian People’s Party spokesman, said embassies would not be turned into polling stations for the election.
“If the installation of polling centers took place, the opposition would claim it was not fair and independent.”