Hun Sen, Senior US Official Discuss Elections

A high-ranking US government official met with Prime Minister Hun Sen Monday to discuss the Feb 3 commune council elections.

US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matthew Daley, who played a role in promoting the 1991 Paris Peace Accords under the administration of former US president George Bush, voiced concern over election intimidation and violence.

According to a UN report re­leased Jan 15, 15 political candidates or party activists were killed between Jan 1, 2001, and Jan 11, 2002, continuing a pattern of election violence that marred the 1993 and 1998 national elections.

Daley “is in Cambo­dia to take a solid step forward to build a platform for democracy in Cambo­dia,” US Ambassador Kent Wied­e­mann said Tuesday.

Daley, who is responsible for Southeast Asian affairs, also talked about voter access to education materials and to candidate debates via electronic media.

Access to debates has been in the spotlight since officials from the Khmer Institute for Democ­racy began encountering difficulty finding a privately owned television station to broadcast a video of a commune council debate held Saturday in Kampot.

On Sunday, an official from the National Election Committee said the committee has no right to preview the content of any election-related videotape that is not produced by a state-run media outlet, such as TVK.

But KID officials say both the NEC and privately run TV stations are actually requiring prior NEC approval before any airing of the debate tape, in apparent contradiction to the NEC’s publicly stated position.

“The Kampot debate tape is now with Im Suosdey, secretary-general for the NEC, and he will issue a visa which will allow us to televise the debate on a private TV station,” said Kem Sambaddh, KID head of administration. The visa is an official written note of permission issued by the NEC which allows TV stations to air political material.

Prum Nhean Vichet, media officer for the NEC, said again Tuesday that KID and private TV stations do not need a permit or visa to air any political debate.

Wiedemann said Daley visited Siem Reap province on Sunday and met with NGOs, human rights groups and European Union observers to talk about the election process. Daley was in Mondolkiri province Tuesday.

While Daley expressed his concerns about the elections, Hun Sen said Tuesday in Kompong Cham that the political atmosphere for the commune elections was “good” and that “nothing has happened,” the Agence France-Presse news agency reported.

Daley is scheduled to meet with opposition leader Sam Rainsy before he leaves for Indo­nesia on Friday.




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