Migrant Representatives Ask for Vote, Registration in Thailand

Labor leaders who say they represent thousands of Cambodian migrant workers in Thailand on Wednesday submitted three petitions to their embassy in Bangkok pushing for overseas voting and registration ahead of next year’s national election.

The issue, which has also been pursued by the opposition CNRP in the National Assembly, would potentially enfranchise more than 1 million Cambodians said to be living and working in Thailand—and who are thought to predominantly support the opposition party.

People walk toward the Interior Ministry’s passports department in Phnom Penh’s Chbar Ampov district, where thousands of migrant workers rush to apply for passports earlier in July. (Hannah Hawkins/The Cambodia Daily)

Current election rules require them to return to their home communes once to register and again to vote, for some a prohibitively costly and time-consuming requirement.

Ly Ratanakraksmey, 35, said he was one of six workers’ representatives who signed and submitted the petition on Wednesday.

“We requested that they facilitate allowing voter registration at the embassy in Thailand,” he said. Registration for July’s election are set to begin on Friday.

If registering and voting at the embassy is not possible, they want to be allowed to do so along the border, since many cannot afford to take time off to return to their hometowns, he said.

Thai labor laws prohibit migrants from establishing unions or serving as union committee members with the power to select union leaders, according to Human Rights Watch.

The Cambodian workers’ representatives, therefore, informally organize about 2,000 to 3,000 workers each based on geographical region, Mr. Ratanakraksmey said. The three petitions were addressed to the Prime Minister’s Cabinet, National Assembly and National Election Committee (NEC), he added.

NEC spokesman Hang Puthea on Wednesday repeated the committee’s position that it had no authority over the issue, and that it would take a legislative change for the body to act.

Earlier this month, the CNRP put forward a proposed legal amendment to the National Assembly that would allow overseas citizens to register and vote at consulates and embassies and for polling stations to be set up by the NEC along borders.

Assembly spokesman Leng Peng Long said on Wednesday the proposal was still being inspected before potentially being sent to a plenary session for a vote.

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