The National Democratic Institute on Thursday gathered
representatives from each of the 11 competing parties to encourage them to
discuss their policies in a "productive manner" ahead of scheduled
debates for July's elections.
NDI is preparing to record and broadcast 22 debates among
the parties, including eight on national television, to provide them "the
opportunity to articulate their ideas freely and challenge those of their
opponents in a fair and equal manner," said Jerome Cheung, Cambodia
representative for the US-based group.
"NDI hopes that these debates will demonstrate that,
while candidates from different parties have different policies and opinions,
they can discuss these differences in a productive manner, free from violence
or retribution," Cheung said.
NDI had scheduled a more than 30 debates, some of them only
between the major parties, but revamped the format following complaints by
In public forums in 2004 and 2005 held by the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, ruling Cambodian
People's Party supporters were interruptive and Sam Rainsy Party supporters
provoked them through negative attacks, said Kem Sokha, president of the Human
Rights Party, who was head of the human rights center when the forums were
This environment led to the failure of forums, as supporters
of the two parties would nearly come to blows, he said.
He supported the view of NDI discouraging the use of attacks
or negative words during the debates, Kem Sokha said.