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Disabilities Group Urges Politicians to Consider Their Needs in Local Elections

A disabled photographer, right, photographs protesters holding a banner that states: "Say No! Union, Association and NGO Laws" during a rally in front of the Senate building where senators voted on a draft of the Law on Associations and Nongovermental Organizations (LANGO), in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Friday, July 24, 2015.

According to the National Election Committee (NEC), some 8,000 disabled people have registered to vote.

The needs of disabled Cambodians have not been taken into account in the forthcoming local elections, a disabilities group has said.

Ngin Saoroth, executive director of the Cambodian Disabled People’s Organization (CDPO), told reporters this week that politicians were not putting “the issue of the disabled into their agenda for the election campaign at all.”

“Unlike young people and women that attract the attention of politicians, the voice of the disabled people goes unheard,” he added, saying he believed politicians were disinterested as the small number of disabled voters could not change the outcome of the election.

“The politicians should appreciate equally the vote from disabled people as the disabled people also take part in choosing the commune chiefs.”

According to the National Election Committee (NEC), some 8,000 disabled people have registered to vote.

Tae Manirong, an NEC member, said facilities would be available at polling stations to facilitate disabled people to cast their votes.

“We have steel ramps for the them to allow the wheelchair to roll up and down. They can always get assistance to lower the vote box for them to cast their ballot,” Manirong said.

Yoeung Sotheara, a legal observer with election monitoring group Comfrel, said disabled rights were more likely to be a feature of the national election.

The government says there are about 50,000 physically disabled people in Cambodia, while the Asian Development Bank estimated that more than 2.3 million Cambodians had physical or mental disabilities.

Sok Eysan, ruling Cambodian People’s Party spokesman, said disabled people were a “priority group” for Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government.

“Prime Minister Hun Sen always advises us to offer disabled people suitable work and jobs based on their qualifications and physical condition,” he said.

Eng Chhay Eang, opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party vice president, said the party had encouraged disabled people to run as candidates in the election.

“We plan for the commune’s fund budget for the vulnerable groups, including the poor and disabled people in the community,” he added.