The sixth and final commune council candidate debate will be held at 2 pm today at the Cambodia Institute of Technology on Russian Federation Boulevard in Phnom Penh.
The debate, featuring candidates from the Tuk La’ak 1 commune in Tuol Kok district, will be moderated by Heng Mony Chenda of the nonpartisan Buddhism for Development NGO.
The debates are sponsored by the Khmer Institute for Democracy and the US-based National Democratic Institute for International Affairs. Previous events were organized in Kampot, Svay Rieng, Kompong Cham, Siem Reap and Kompong Speu provinces.
Phnom Penh participants will include Maria Ta, a 45-year-old businesswoman representing the Khmer Improvement Party; Nhem Nan, 51, a retired military officer representing Funcinpec; Chheng Khon, 61, commune chief of Tuk La’ak 1, representing the CPP; and Chheng Ky, 66, a high school Khmer teacher representing the Sam Rainsy Party.
The public is urged to attend. “Audience sizes have ranged from 150 to 450,” Eric Kessler of NDI said.
“Very few people in Cambodia have been able to see these historic debates, so we invite [everyone] to come and be a part of this elite group.”
The organizers had hoped the debates would be broadcast on television and radio before the election to familiarize Cambodian voters with the debate format as a means of educating voters and candidates.
But officials at the National Election Committee declined to broadcast videotapes of the debates on state-run TV and radio, saying it would be unfair because debates were not organized in all 1,621 of the nation’s communes.
The NEC said private TV and radio stations were free to run the programs, but those stations refused to do so without written permission from the NEC, which was not forthcoming.
All of the debates have been broadcast on Radio Free Asia. The final debate is scheduled to air at 6 pm today and again at 5:30 am Friday.
Lao Mong Hay, Khmer Institute executive director, said the effort that went into organizing the debates won’t be wasted.
“We will transcribe each debate, and print different brochures containing the transcripts for each commune,” he said.
The transcripts and videos will be given to each commune, and voter groups will be organized to monitor the performance of the winning candidates to see how well they keep their promises.
“And I will write articles on the debates and what we have learned from the different attitudes and levels of participation in different areas to the different levels of sophistication from one province to the next,” Lao Mong Hay said.