If the Ministry of Interior refuses to issue new identification cards to the country’s estimated 50,000 monks so that they can vote in the next election, monks will find other ways to make their voices heard in the electoral process, two national leaders of monks told Khmer Times yesterday. “The ruling party will lose more support if monks are not allowed to vote,” Venerable But Buntenh, leader of the Independent Monk Network for Social Justice, said. He suggested it would be bad karma to deprive monks of their constitutionally guaranteed right to vote. “We have a lot of support through our religious activities and we can disseminate information to people and tell them that we have been deprived of the right to vote,” he said.
He made the comments after a report from the National Election Committee (NEC) yesterday noted that monks were having trouble obtaining ID cards. The new ID cards will be required to vote in the 2017 commune elections and the national election in 2018.
NEC member Duch Sorn said he had raised the issue with the Interior Ministry’s General Department of Identification. NEC spokesman Hang Puthea said the NEC has been calling on the ministry to find a way to issue the ID cards to monks, after officials at the ministry said they might not be able to do so in time for the next election.