Bar President Elected Amid Alleged Gift-Giving

Attorney Chiv Songhak was elected the new president of the Cambodian Bar Association on Thursday for the next two-year term, amid allegations that he had given out gifts to voters.

Bar Association Secretary-Gen­eral Ly Tayseng said by phone that Chiv Songhak received 325 votes, Puth Theavy had 123 and Uk Phourik got eight votes.

Among the total 467 votes cast at the Cambodiana Hotel, only 418 attorneys were present, Ly Tay­seng said, adding that remaining votes were cast in absentia by other lawyers. Eleven ballots were spoil­ed, he said.

“It went well. All members were happy with the results,” Ly Tay­seng said. He added that Chiv Songhak would take charge of the bar in 15 days so long as there are no complaints from other candidates.

“We think that it was free and fair,” Ly Tayseng said.

Candidate Puth Theavy accused Chiv Songhak of giving out gifts to voters during the campaign period in an attempt to buy votes.

“Chiv Songhak gave out silk skirts,” Puth Theavy said by phone after the vote, adding, however, that he had no problem with the election Thursday.

“I simply request that Chiv Song­hak make a campaign rule related to giving out souvenirs such as money in envelopes,” Puth Theavy said. “It is buying minds. Doing so makes lawyers, who are intellectuals, decline in values,” he said.

Chiv Songhak didn’t answer repeated phone calls Thursday. However, he said Wednesday that he had not used gifts as a strategy, but had twice invited 450 lawyers to dinner to listen to his policies.

Uk Phourik, who is also the president of the Khmer Democratic Party, said he was too busy to comment Thursday.

Just before the election, two other candidates, Khiev Sophal and Nou Tepirith, withdrew from the race.

“I apologize,” Nou Tepirith told a packed room of lawyers and reporters Thursday. He added that he endorsed Chiv Songhak, who he said was his longtime friend. “Please vote for the candidate who I think has policies similar to mine,” Nou Tepirith said.

During a 10-minute speech be­fore the election, Puth Theavy blasted Nou Tepirith for giving up be­fore the balloting.

“I am wondering why a candidate came up to the arena to an­nounce his withdrawal,” Puth Theavy said. “If I die, I have to fight first,” he said. “In the arena, there are no friends.”

Puth Theavy also claimed that he had been pressured to back down from the race because of his “independence.”

“I stand as a candidate because I want democracy at the Bar As­sociation and want the votes to come from lawyers who are not afraid, who dare to sacrifice,” he said.

Chiv Songhak said little to attorneys gathered ahead of the vote he handily won, declining to go over his policy platform because he said he had talked enough about it at the two dinners he’d hosted.

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