Final Candidate Debate Set in Phnom Penh Set for Today

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.


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