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Friday, April 20, 2007

Buddhist monks clash during protest

Two opposing groups of Cambodian Buddhist monks engaged in a street fist fight today during a protest to demand religious freedom for their fellow monks living in southern Vietnam.

Lim Yuth, a 23-year-old Buddhist monk, suffered a cut on his left eyebrow during the brawl, but it was not immediately clear what caused the injury.

Lim Yuth was among some 50 monks who marched through Cambodia's capital, Phnom Penh, to voice their grievances over alleged mistreatment by Hanoi authorities against Cambodian Buddhist monks in southern Vietnam.

A large part of southern Vietnam, known in Cambodia as Kampuchea Krom, used to be part of Cambodia's mighty Khmer empire centuries ago and is still populated by many ethnic Cambodians.

Hanoi permits only a handful of state-sponsored religious organisations to operate in Vietnam, which has led to clashes with some religious groups, including Buddhists.
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20,000 OAV ballots have not yet reached Italy, Cambodia

After a week, only 1% have cast ballots overseas

By Veronica Uy
Last updated 06:56pm (Mla time) 04/20/2007

MANILA, Philippines -- Seven days into the overseas absentee voting (OAV), no election is still happening in Italy and Cambodia.

This is because some 20,000 ballots for overseas absentee voters in Rome and Milan in Italy and Phnom Penh in Cambodia have still not reached these posts, the Department of Foreign Affairs’ OAV Secretariat (DFA-OAVS) said Friday.

In a press conference, Ambassador Generoso Calonge, vice chairman of the DFA-OAVS, said the week-long delay in the voting in these places has made them consider extending the OAV there.

“We’ll see if they’re able to receive the ballots and have sufficient time to conduct the elections. After all, the voting period is one month. We’ll look seriously into extending the voting period,” he said.

Calonge said after seven days, as of Friday morning, only a little more than one percent, or 5,944 voters, of the 504,122 registered overseas voters have cast their ballots.

He also said some problems with undelivered ballots have been reported in Indonesia. “It appears that the individuals have relocated to other places and the embassy has not been informed of the new addresses,” he said. He added that some cases may be the result of the wrong addresses being written on the envelopes.

Calonge said his office is doing everything to hasten the delivery of the ballots to Italy and Cambodia.

“We are calling [the posts] every hour,” he said of the efforts his office is exerting to solve this problem. “I don’t want to point fingers but I think this problem is beyond the control of the DFA.”

Calonge said the Philippine Postal Corp. sent the ballots to Italy April 13 and 14, while the ballots for Cambodia are already in Bangkok. The OAV began April 14 and will end at 3 p.m. on May 14, when the polls close here.

“The Philippine embassy in Bangkok is helping the postal services physically locate the ballots so that they may be immediately sent to Phnom Penh,” he said.

Calonge said the DFA-OAVS has allowed “tagging” in the United Arab Emirates and “on a limited basis” in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Tagging in UAE, he explained, is allowing OAV voters registered in Abu Dhabi to vote in Dubai and vice versa.

He said this was allowed because many overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), in their constant search for better job opportunities, have moved back and forth between these two emirates without accordingly changing their addresses with the embassy and the OAVS.

To ensure that no multiple voting occurs, he said the posts in Abu Dhabi and Dubai inform each other of who has cast their ballots.

To increase the participation rate of overseas voters, Calonge said his office has called on all Philippine embassies, consulates, and labor offices to intensify their information drives. He said field and mobile voting has been allowed in Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam and in a Stockholm facility for seafarers temporarily docking there.

If despite all these efforts the OAV turnout remains low, he said it doesn’t matter. “As they say, you can bring the horse to the river, but you cannot force it to drink,” he said.

“No matter what figures come out, the important thing is the right to vote [of OFWs] is there. It is our duty to provide them the opportunity to choose our national leaders,” he added.

Personal voting remained the biggest source of ballots cast, with 4,428 votes; voting by mail, 1,503; and modified voting by mail, solely from South Korea, 13.

Hong Kong remains the top spot for personal voting, with 1,172 ballots case; followed by Riyadh with 915; Al-Khobar with 409; Jeddah with 376; Kuwait with 305; Saipan with 196; Abu Dhabi with 186; Dubai with 176; Athens with 127; and Beirut with 115.

By region, personal voters came mostly from the Middle East and Africa, with 2,767; Asia Pacific with 1,338; the Americas with 196; and Europe with 127.

By region, the Americas yielded the biggest number of votes by mail, with 682; followed by Asia Pacific with 481; Europe with 294; and Middle East and Africa with 46.
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