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Ruling Party Passes on Corruption Debate

Officials of the ruling Cambodian People's Party declined to join 10 other parties in a political debate held Tuesday over long-awaited anti-corruption legislation.

The debate, held by the Committee for Free and Fair Elections, gathered leaders from all other political parties competing in the July 27 election and about 80 participants.

"The CPP did not join this forum because it is not very interesting for the CPP," government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said.

Comfrel "is biased to the opposition parties and has a stance to oppose the CPP," he said.

"Let the people decide for the July 27 election," he said.

Licadho rights group founder Kek Galabru, who moderated the debate as a member of the Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee, said the forum was very interesting for political parties "and the voters."

"We very much regret that the CPP did not join the forum, because this was a good opportunity for all political parties to show voters how they can reduce corruption through the passage of the anti-corruption law," she said.

Representatives from the 10 parties promised Tuesday to pass in the first year an anti-corruption law that has been in the draft stage for at least a decade. They also promised a top-down sweep of corrupt officials.

"The current leaders have confused the people into thinking corruption is our tradition," Keat Sokun, a senior official of the Human Rights Party, said during the debate. "This is very wrong."

"I am trembling because of the Cambodian situation, where corruption is terrible," he said. "Corruption kills the entire nation."

Participants said they supported political platforms against corruption, but many were concerned the parties will not keep their promises or would be unable to fulfill them.