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Corruption Key Issue as Televised Debates Continue


Audience participants also asked about land grabbing, human rights issues, deforestation, education, corruption and job creation in the televised debate Thursday. Courtesy of Kem Sokha.

Audience participants also asked about land grabbing, human rights issues, deforestation, education, corruption and job creation in the televised debate Thursday. Courtesy of Kem Sokha.

PHNOM PENH - Three more political parties took part in televised debate on Thursday, again looking toward the combatting of corruption as a way of attracting voters in the July 28 election.

The debate—among Funcinpec, the Anti-Poverty Party, and the Khmer National Party—was sponsored by the US-based National Democratic Institute and was broadcast on TVK. It followed the appearance of representatives in a similar debate on Wednesday from the Cambodia National Rescue Party, the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, and the emerging Khmer Economic Development Party

Other issues the parties hoped to tackle including immigration, unemployment, education and human rights abuse.

Only six of eight invited political parties participated. Representatives of the League of Democracy Party and the Democratic Republic Party did not participate.

In the first round of debate, some of the 200 participants addressed many sensitive issues to the participating parties, especially concerning illegal immigration, low wage of civil servants, corruption and human rights abuses.

Regarding these issues on Wednesday, Kem Sokha, vice president of the Rescue Party, and Hounreach Chamreoun, of the Economic Development Party, blamed poor leadership by the ruling party. The CPP’s Sok Eysan defended his party’s policies and overall achievements.

One participant raised his concerns about large-scale illegal Vietnamese immigration and asked for solutions.

“Nowadays, the law on immigration is enforced only with Thailand but not Vietnam,” Kem Sokha said. “Over the past 30 years, many Vietnamese illegal immigrants have flowed into the country, and the government sends none of them back home.”

To deal with this problem, the law should be strictly enforced, he said.

Hounreach Chamreoun said illegal immigration should be dealt with through diplomatic means. “If aliens are illegally living in Cambodia, their diplomats should bring them back home,” he said.

“The government has tried to strictly enforce law on immigration,” Sok Eysan said, defending government policies. “The government has adopted many laws and regulations governing immigration, issuing citizenship and ID cards and travel documents to the people.”

Some members of the audience told VOA Khmer after the show that they felt disappointed with his response.

Another participant, Bou Bora, a state university lecturer, complained to the representatives of his low wages and political pressure for kickbacks from civil servants like him.

“Civil servants currently get a very low salary, and some portion of the salary needs to be donated to the [CPP],” he said. “If anyone refuses to do so, they will be pressured by powerful officials. Thus, how can your parties deal with this issue?”

Sok Eysan explained that the government has tried its best to increase the salaries of civil servants, at least 20 percent annually, but he declined to comment on whether there is political pressure for kickbacks.

Kem Sokha pledged to increase the minimum wage up to $250 and separate the civil servants from any political involvement if the Rescue Party wins the election.

Hounreach Chamreoun responded similarly.

Audience participants also asked about land grabbing, human rights issues, deforestation, education, corruption and job creation.

Failing to come up with concrete solutions to these sensitive issues, Sok Eysan stressed the ruling party’s achievements, including the overthrow of the Khmer Rouge, economic and democratic development and improvements in infrastructure and education.

In Thursday’s debate, representatives for the three parties focused their discussion mainly on their policies to combat chronic corruption in the country.

Cambodia loses and estimated $500 million each year to corruption, according to Transparency International, a US-based watchdog, and is ranked 157th of 174 countries as one of the most corrupt countries.
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