Group Teaching Educators The Importance of Elections

As voter registration continues for the first-ever commune elections, an election monitoring group is training educators who will spread knowledge to thousands of other voters before polling begins.

The two-day workshop at the Russian Center of Science and Culture in Phnom Penh, which continues today, details polling day procedures and the mechanics of ballot counting as well as more general discussion of the role of villagers in government.

Ana Maria Clamor, a political consultant to the nonprofit group Pact, urged the trainers to re­main nonpartisan if they want to help  nurturing Cambodia’s fledgling democracy.

“Never accept mon­ey from a party, get involved with a party or campaign for a party. You are the guardians of democracy. Your role will be to make the will of the people heard,” she said.

The 48 master trainers, two from each province, will relay their knowledge to district trainers and commune activists—about 3,400 people—in workshops running through Sep­tember, said Koul Panha, executive director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections.

Starting in October those officials will begin educating villag­ers, he said.

They will be armed with videotapes, cassettes and posters with messages about corruption, the workings of the political process and the importance of observing commune councils.

Comfrel trainer Pen Bonnar, from Ratanakkiri province, said that only about 10 percent of the roughly 8,000 eligible voters in Banlung town have registered.

Many people have not registered in his province because they have not learned enough about the importance of the elections, Pen Bonnar said.

He called for the registration period to be extended until more people are educated. R­egistration is scheduled through Aug 16.

Tim Meisburger, election adviser with the Asia Foundation, presented a survey, “Democracy in Cambodia,” which showed most people wanted to vote, but that only one-quarter were confident the elections would be free and fair. Only a small minority associated the idea of democracy with elections, the report stated.



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