Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Monk voting stymied: orgs

Monk voting stymied: orgs

A monk places his vote at Sisowath High School’s ballot station in Phnom Penh during the 2013 national election.
A monk places his vote at Sisowath High School’s ballot station in Phnom Penh during the 2013 national election. Hong Menea

Monk voting stymied: orgs

Multiple election watchdog organisations including Comfrel and Nicfec yesterday expressed concern that government officials are limiting monks’ ability to vote in upcoming commune elections, despite a 2015 pledge from the National Election Committee to facilitate the process.

Activist monk But Buntenh cited voter intimidation, lack of government identification and limited access to information as the main factors preventing monks from registering for the 2017 commune elections, a process that ends in exactly two weeks.

“Some officials say monks should not participate in the political process”, Buntenh said yesterday, adding that some officials even threaten or intimidate monks to prevent them from registering.

In 2014, the nation’s supreme patriarch, Tep Vong, appealed to the government to prevent monks from voting entirely. He had previously banned monks from exercising their voting rights in 2003, alleging it contradicted Buddhist principles, but reversed the decision in 2006.

However, no government action was taken and the Ministry of Cults and Religion said yesterday they are taking their cues on the issue from the NEC.

Buntenh added that most monks don’t have official government IDs, but do have separate forms of identification used within the monkhood. “We do not understand why we can’t use them to register,” he said.

Korn Savang, a senior official at the Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia (Comfrel), also said local officials had been purposefully trying to suppress monk voting rights. “In some places, only 5 percent of monks have registered,” he said.

Buntenh said he sent a team from his Independent Monk Network for Social Justice to both Poipet and Pursat provinces to check on monk registration. In Poipet, they found only 10 percent of the monks interviewed from five different pagodas had registered. Not a single monk in the Pursat pagoda visited was registered.

Buntenh estimates that “not more than 35 percent” of the estimated 53,000 monks in Cambodia are registered to vote.

Sam Kuntheami, executive director of election-monitoring organisation Nicfec, agreed that monk registration was particularly low and blamed “discrimination” from commune officials.

NEC spokesman Hang Puthea, meanwhile, said monks wanting to register to vote must use a birth certificate since they do not have an official government ID.

“Monks who do not have ID must use their birth certificate . . . The law in Cambodia does not require registration, so it could be their right to decide not to register,” he said.

But, as Buntenh pointed out, birth certificates were not common in Cambodia until after 2005.

MOST VIEWED

  • Hong Kong firm done buying Coke Cambodia

    Swire Coca-Cola Ltd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Hong Kong-listed Swire Pacific Ltd, on November 25 announced that it had completed the acquisition of The Coca-Cola Co’s bottling business in Cambodia, as part of its ambitions to expand into the Southeast Asian market. Swire Coca-Cola affirmed

  • Cambodia's Bokator now officially in World Heritage List

    UNESCO has officially inscribed Cambodia’s “Kun Lbokator”, commonly known as Bokator, on the World Heritage List, according to Minister of Culture and Fine Arts Phoeurng Sackona in her brief report to Prime Minister Hun Sen on the night of November 29. Her report, which was

  • NagaWorld union leader arrested at airport after Australia trip

    Chhim Sithar, head of the Labour Rights Supported Union of Khmer Employees at NagaWorld integrated casino resort, was arrested on November 26 at Phnom Penh International Airport and placed in pre-trial detention after returning from a 12-day trip to Australia. Phnom Penh Municipal Court Investigating Judge

  • Sub-Decree approves $30M for mine clearance

    The Cambodian government established the ‘Mine-Free Cambodia 2025 Foundation’, and released an initial budget of $30 million. Based on the progress of the foundation in 2023, 2024 and 2025, more funds will be added from the national budget and other sources. In a sub-decree signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen

  • Two senior GDP officials defect to CPP

    Two senior officials of the Grassroots Democratic Party (GDP) have asked to join the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), after apparently failing to forge a political alliance in the run-up to the 2023 general election. Yang Saing Koma, chairman of the GDP board, and Lek Sothear,

  • Cambodia's poverty cut in half from 2009 to 2019: World Bank report

    A report published by the World Bank on November 28 states that Cambodia’s national poverty rate fell by almost half between 2009 and 2019, but the Covid-19 pandemic recently reversed some of the poverty reduction progress. Cambodia’s poverty rate dropped from 33.8 to 17.8 per cent over the 10