PHNOM PENH - Youth representatives from six political parties running in the upcoming elections joined an International Republican Institute-organized debate over the weekend to show their respective parties’ policies.
The candidates came from Funcinpec, the Cambodian Nationality Party, the League for Democracy Party, the Anti-Poverty Party, the Cambodian People’s Party and the Cambodia National Rescue Party.
Jessica Keegan, acting director of IRI, said the debates helped provide information for the July 28 election.
“Citizens need access to information to get different views from different people so that they can make informed decisions on Election Day,” she said.
Each candidate was given a chance to describe the party’s platforms and convince the audience why a vote for them would matter.
The Funcinpec candidate vowed to return education and employment numbers toward those resembling the reign of late king Norodom Sihanouk, while the CNP said it would let young people choose their own jobs based on their abilities.
The LDP candidate did not provide a solution, but asked his audience to look at the causes of the problems, whereas the APP promised to bring in 12 millionaires to help create jobs and improve eduction in the country.
The CPP candidate said his party would continue to provide equal opportunity for children and youth, to access both formal and informal education, while the CNRP pledged to increase the national budget allocation up to 20 percent for the education sector.
The debate attracted as many different views from the audience as it did policies from the candidates.
Kim Dyna, a graduate student who claims she has been unemployed for the past two years, said she liked the Rescue Party.
“Because all the seven points raised by the candidate do impact citizens both old and young,” she said.
But Chheang Mariya, a student from Institute of New Khmer, thinks differently. “I like the CPP the most because the candidate explained well, and what he said is true in the current context.”
During the debate, whenever the CPP candidate talked, a large crowd in the audience cheered and applauded loudly.
This prompted some to believe their support had been arranged by the party.
“Obviously, I have many friends from several universities who came just because their schools required them to,” Kim Dyna said. “Each supervisor of the students always tells them that when the CPP candidate speaks, let’s clap our hands to support him and not other candidates.”
Nop Norin, director of Institute of New Khmer, who brought more than 100 of his students to attend the debate, dismissed such claims. But he’s also an assistant to CPP Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng.
“Those students just wanted to see for themselves how each youth representative of each political party presents their respective parties’ policy on the future of youth,” he said. “They came voluntarily without any threats, and the fact that they support any particular candidate is their right.”