In the 2003 national election, Chea Kim Lang, 23 now, was at the legal age for voting, but she did not.
As the 27 July 2008 national election is coming near, Kim Lang does not have any plan to vote at all. Looking a bit angry and disappointed, Kim Lang said, “When I became 18 years old particularly in 2003, I did not have an ID card yet.” Without an identification card, Kim Lang was afraid she could not vote, and so she decided not to give it a try.
Kim Lang blamed for her inability to vote the authority responsible for issuing her the ID card or national card. “On the 2003 Election Day, I stayed at home alone, and my parents and two sisters went and voted,” said Kim Lang.
The ID card was not the only reason why Kim Lang did not manage to vote. “I think my family wasted their time, and they’d better stay at home like me.”
According to the electoral law, every 18-year-old or over is legible to caste a vote. While voting is a right, not an obligation, then, whether or not Kim Lang does not go to vote, it does not affect her living, she said.
Three years later, Kim Lang decided to go to her local authority once again to make an ID card. This time, she was let down again twice or three times. When she went and asked for it, the authority kept telling her to wait. Her authority was based in Tuol Sangkee commune, Resey Keo district. Now that she had already moved to a new house in Chamkar Morn district, Kim Lang will somehow have to go to vote in Resey Keo district.
The electoral law also states that people who have registered somewhere before will have to vote at the same place. Even Kim Lang’s family will go and vote in Resey Keo district.
2007 was the year of the Cambodian commune election. Again, Kim Lang did not participate in voting although she was legible. “I stop caring about it; it’s not my fault,” Kim Lang commented. “I think the election is nothing special as it just happens again and again in the same way.”
After finishing her high school, Kim Lang started to work as an assistant in one Chinese garment factory since. In high school, Kim Lang said, she got very little information about what a national election really was.
As a Chinese descendent, Kim Lang believes that it is simple for Chinese descendents not to go to vote. “Other people, especially Cambodian Chinese do not usually vote because they think whoever comes next and takes up the power does not make any difference or change anything. Perhaps, the new one will line his or her own pockets more quickly than the old one,” Kim Lang recalled what other Chinese descendents told her.
“I won’t go to vote this year, but if I really voted, I wouldn’t know whom to vote for,” Kim Lang said. “Every time I hear the result, it’s always the ruling party who wins.”
To Kim Lang, a subject of discussion concerned with the election is quite sensitive among other people, even with her own family. “I have never asked whom my family voted for because I’ve been told it’s not a proper thing to ask or discuss,” she said.
Consequently, two of her cousins frequently have a row about their political interest since they voted for different political parties and tried to claim what was the best.
Matter-of-factly, people really want to vote, but they can see the result before it is really revealed, Kim Lang said. “How can they know? Of course, through CPP leaders’ use of power.”
Kim Lang thinks that the election in Cambodia ‘is just held out of someone’s want or just a show-off of democracy’. All Kim Lang knew about the election was that it was financed by some international donors. “It’s a waste of money to do it.”
In spite the fact that Kim Lang was not educated well about the election, she also listened to radio or read newspaper about what happened during and after the election.
“After the election, I later heard about complaints from other political parties that it’s unfair and there’s ballot fraud. But what I don’t understand is that people who voted didn’t complain. I never hear them complaining about fraud or anything.”
“I don’t feel any guilt; it’s not a big deal in my life. Also, I don’t see anything changed to my country, so I am so hopeless about it.”
During Khmer New Year, Kim Lang and her parents went to Vietnam for medical check-ups. She said that Vietnam was now so developed. “The situation in my country is slow in progress. Ten years before, Vietnam was like Cambodia now. But when I was there, things changed very much.”
Asked what she would expect in the upcoming election, Kim Lang said that there’s nothing she anticipated but hoped that there wouldn’t be violence, fighting, robbery or theft at all. “From one election to the other, there’s no change but I can hear and see only chaos. I don’t know how they come up.” She also hoped the political parties would have to work hard for their country. “Don’t promise, just do it.”
From the propaganda to registration process, everything is so complicated for Kim Lang to understand.
“I don’t think I can make any change to what is happening,” Kim Lang said. “It’s bullshit to say people here have rights to vote.”