Election Forums Help Voters Pick Candidates

Ta Hoeun, a typical voter, was bored sitting at home on Friday, so the 78-year-old Tuol Kok resident decided to check out a political forum where eight female parliamentary candidates for the capital were scheduled to appear.

What he heard there changed his mind on whom he should vote for July 27. He doesn’t know who he likes now, which is different from when he went to the forum with his mind already set.

“I’m considering which party to vote for,” Ta Hoeun said during the forum, held at the Mon­dial Center on Mao Tse-tung Boule­vard and put on by the Wo­men for Prosperity organization. “They all have their own reasoning. I’m not sure which one is best.

“I’ve passed many decades, and I’ve met with a lot of situations in many regimes,” Ta Hoeun said. He said he knows that “a leader must have a high education.”

His vote would likely revolve around justice, he said.

“Since I was I young, I have loved justice,” he said. But that still hasn’t helped him make up his mind.

The Women for Prosperity forum offered a chance for some 600 constituents to ask questions of the candidates, including Min­ister of Women’s Affairs Mu Sochua, a Funcinpec candidate for Phnom Penh; Choulong Miura, a Sam Rainsy Party candidate; and Kroch Sam An, a CPP candidate.

Leng Suy, 56, said she enjoyed listening to what she called a “fair” debate.

During the forum, a garment worker asked Kroch Sam An what she would do to find the suspects of a grenade attack on a rally of opposition leader Sam Rainsy on March 30, 1997. At least 16 people were killed and more than 150 injured in the attack, but no arrests were ever made and the case remains unsolved.

“If you vote for the CPP,” Kroch Sam An said, “the government will continue to investigate, and arrest [the suspects].”

Mu Sochua told the crowd that if Funcinpec wins the election, the party would find justice for all women who are threatened in today’s society. For more than 20 years, women have not been granted the same rights as men, she said. The CPP has been the ruling party since 1979.

Many parties picked up the anti-Vietnamese rhetoric that has been used by Funcinpec and the Sam Rainsy Party, saying they wanted to solve territorial disputes, halt Vietnamese immigration and strengthen general security.

Iv Borin, an organizer for Women for Prosperity, said the forum was designed to give people “an idea as to which party they will select to solve their problems.”

Students, market vendors and garment workers made up most of the audience, he said.

Forums are being held in Bat­tambang, Prey Veng, Komp­ong Cham and Kandal provinces, as well as Phnom Penh, Iv Borin said.


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