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Give Me A Chance


July 27th was national Election Day in Cambodia. It was the fourth mandated election since the 1st UN-backed one in 1993. However, I couldn't join the election this year. I'm in Germany working on my two-month internship with CARE. But I am a Cambodian and I want to have a leader that can reduce poverty and cement democracy.

To me, voting is not just casting a paper in a box in a few minutes. It is a long, long process. I have to observe many people and select the strongest leader. That person will be responsible for my family and others for the next five years. Sometimes I feel a headache just trying to figure out the better candidate.

Cambodians abroad

Poverty has forced many Cambodians out of the country, to search for jobs in Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Malaysia. According to the article "Fishermen without Borders", from the June 2008 issue of SE Globe magazine, more than 1,000 Cambodian workers traveled to Malaysia during the first four months of 2008. In 2005, Thailand reported a count of 182,007 registered Cambodian migrants, but experts estimate that for every legal worker, there are three undocumented migrants.

In June, I went to Poi Pet Commune, in Banteay Meanchey Province, near the Cambodia-Thailand border. I walked from house to house and asked villagers about the upcoming election. No different from me, most of the residents had left their home country to search for jobs. Aunt Hourm, 51, is living with her old age mother. Her two younger sons had just gone to Thailand one day before I met her. “They might not be able to vote,’ she said. I walked from one house to another for an election report and wondered “Who is going to cast their vote this mandate?’

How can people living abroad vote?

Having been in Bonn for one month, I have met some Khmer people (Cambodians). They are kind and nice to me. However, they are very interested to know about the polling day. “Will it be a peaceful vote?’ asked a Cambodian lady, two weeks before Election Day. She has been away from her homeland for seven years. If she was able to vote on the 27th of July, I think it would help her to know more about Cambodia now.

As far as I know, American, and British citizens can apply to be overseas voters. They can send mail or faxes to the election office and cast their ballots. Why not Cambodians? Four national elections have passed, but Khmers living abroad cannot join the election. Is there any way to give Cambodians abroad a chance to vote? I want to vote, too.

US citizens can get absentee ballots from their local election official. Then, they vote and return the ballot to the local election official. UK citizens have two options to vote from overseas’”by post or by proxy. By post, a person can receive a ballot seven days before Election Day and then send it back promptly. By proxy, a person can nominate someone else in the UK as their proxy to vote for him/her.

My grandmother always advises my siblings and me to choose the right chief of the country. “We simple people we just want to live in peace. I don”t want my next generation to have an experience like mine,’ said my grandmother Sabeurn, who has come across both war and peace in Cambodia.

During the course of the 2008 national elections, there were eleven parties. To get more voters and supporters, each party promised that if it won the election, it will fight against inflation, corruption and poverty. There were around eight million voters on the Nation Election Committee”s (NEC) list for the mandated vote casting. NEC distributed 80 percent of the voter information notices, a card containing information about the polling stations and the election date, as well as the voter's” personal data.

In the mandate election, there were 15,000 polling stations available for eight hours of voting, conducted under the eyes of 13,000 domestic and international observers. The ruling Cambodia People's Party proclaimed victory, saying it captured at least 90 of the 123 parliamentary seats.

This post was written by Sorotha Chan, a journalist student from Cambodia working for CARE Germany”s Press Department in Bonn for the next 2 months. He contributes a weekly diary about his country – the daily problems the kingdom is facing and the challenges its people are dealing with.

Posted by webmaster on Aug 1, 2008 6:33 PM America/New_York

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