Reform Efforts Should Include Vote for Cambodians Abroad
(Reviewed by Colin Meyn, Cambodia Daily, Published on 10 March 2014)
Now that the ruling CPP and opposition CNRP have begun discussions on post-election reforms, (“Slow Start for Joint Electoral Reform Commission,” March 4) it must be noted that the Cambodian diaspora has been pivotal to the development of modern Cambodia and, therefore, should be given a role in helping to bring about crucial change in the country. In countries such as India and the Philippines, nationals living abroad make huge contributions to the economy through remittances. For countries such as Israel and Armenia, their diaspora communities are catalysts for political change.
In Cambodia, expatriate Khmers have played an important role in revitalizing the nation. Cambodia’s diaspora was central in bringing about the Paris Peace Agreement, and today’s democratic movement is supported by donations and participation from Cambodians overseas. The powerful ruling Cambodian People’s Party often takes a confrontational position toward Khmers living overseas, which is a mistake, as so many of us want to invest in the country’s economy and people.
Cambodia’s government continues to rely heavily on foreign aid, it could benefit greatly by also engaging Cambodians living abroad as it seeks to become a globally competitive country. As part of its discussion over electoral reform, the CPP and CNRP should include on the agenda the right of Cambodians living around the world to vote in future national elections.
Commission for Election Right of Oversea Cambodians (CEROC)
University of Hawaii, Honolulu
No Votes for Almost 600,000 Cambodians Working Abroad
On July 28, an estimated 9.6 million registered voters are expected to go to the polls in Cambodia. But, with no mechanism in place for absentee voting, almost 600,000 migrant workers currently estimated to live abroad are unlikely to cast their vote, according to election monitors and NGOs that work with migrants.
Those not voting include adult Cambodians, both illegal and legal, who are working in Thailand, Malaysia and South Korea, said Joel Preston, a consultant for the Community Legal Education Center (CLEC), a legal aid NGO that advocates for migrant rights.
“If they are Khmer citizens, they all have the right to vote,” Mr. Preston said. “The lack of absentee voting, which exists in Thailand and the Philippines, threatens the freedom and fairness of the upcoming election,” he said.
While the Ministry of Labor on Tuesday declined to provide figures for the number of Cambodians working abroad, CLEC estimates that there are more than 500,000 legal and undocumented Cambodians working in Thailand, more than 50,000 in Malaysia and more than 30,000 in South Korea.
“The single most important factor in labor migration is wage. Hundreds of thousands of marginalized Cambodians have left this country for that reason alone,” Mr. Preston said.
Committee for Free and Fair Elections executive director Koul Panha said that Cambodians working abroad contribute greatly to the national economy through remittance, yet they do not have the right to vote.
Continue reading No Votes for Almost 600,000 Cambodians Working Abroad
Slow Start for Joint Electoral Reform Commission
The ruling CPP agreed in principle to two of seven proposals put forth by the opposition CNRP on Monday during the first meeting of a joint electoral reform commission.
Emerging from a four-and-a-half hour meeting at the Senate, leaders of the CPP and CNRP working groups told reporters that they had agreed on the need to reform voter registration and create a new law on political financing.
A joint statement released following the meeting says the parties agreed to “organize voter registration and voter lists to guarantee and to protect people’s right to vote” and “organize the creation of a law on financing of political parties.”
The six-member delegations from each party agreed to continue electoral reform talks next Monday.
CNRP chief whip Son Chhay, who headed the opposition delegation, said the CPP declined to discuss five additional reform proposals until they had a chance to speak with senior CPP leadership.
Those points included reforming the composition of the National Election Committee and its local bodies, giving parties equal access to broadcast media, the creation of an independent body to settle electoral disputes, and measures to ensure the political independence of the military and civil service.
“They said [these points] have not been discussed among their leaders, so they asked to look into this for next time around,” Mr. Chhay said, adding that specifics of the reforms would be dealt with in later stages of the reform process.
Continue reading Slow Start for Joint Electoral Reform Commission