Confusion Reigns Over Whether to Preview Debate Video

Contradictions abounded Mon­day as officials from the National Election Committee, the Khmer In­stitute for Democracy and TV9 tried to determine the fate of a videotape recording of a commune council debate held Sat­ur­day in Kampot.

NEC officials said Sunday they have no right to inspect, or even view, the content of the tape if it is to be broadcast on a privately run station such as TV9.

But an official from the Khmer Institute for Democracy said the organization sent its edited copy of the debate to the NEC because TV9 officials said they needed “written confirmation” from the NEC before they could air the debate.

“We submitted the tape to the NEC because TV9 requested it,” said Lao Mong Hay, executive director for the Khmer Institute for Democracy.

But an official from TV9 said they would air the tape once they received a copy, regardless of whether the NEC has previewed it. “We have not received the tape, but once we do, we will air it,” said Hol Puthkonthy, a TV9 official.

When notified that TV9 would broadcast the debate without a writ­ten confirmation from the NEC, Lao Mong Hay said he would take back the tape from the NEC and deliver it to TV9.

NEC media officer Prum Nhean Vichet did say, however, that TV9 or any other privately run TV station would be responsible for any content they air.

“They have the right to play the tape and charge [the Khmer Institute for Democracy] what they want, but both parties have to be re­spon­sible before the law if the content instigates unrest,” he said. The NEC will watch the broadcast if it is televised, but will do no more, he added.

Meanwhile, a Sam Rainsy Par­ty commune candidate was found dead Saturday in the Mekong river in Stung Treng province.

Vat Din, 55, the second-listed candidate for Koh Preah commune, Siem Bauk district, was found dead by his wife after he reportedly declined an invitation to go drinking the previous day with CPP officials, according to party cabinet chief Phi Thach.

“It’s very hard to tell how he died,” Phi Thach said. “It may be a real accident because some parts of the Mekong river are dangerous.”

The provincial election committee and Stung Treng provincial authorities conducted an autopsy, and a UN official reported Mon­day that the body had been cremated. The Sam Rainsy Party is asking the European Union and human rights groups to investigate, said party Secretary-General Eng Chhay Eang.

Mark Stevens, deputy chief observer for the European Union election observer team, said the EU’s election team in the area has contacted authorities and is looking into the death.

(Reporting by Kim Chan, Ham Samnang, Thet Sambath and David Kihara)


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