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Ahead of Campaigns, Parties Rely on Radio

To listen regularly to local radio is to hear at least five potential political parties broadcasting their aims and platforms, in a bid to gain the confidence of voters ahead of July's general elections.

These broadcasts have been even more robust than in previous elections, and, political observers note, show that Cambodia's parties are trying to win voters over in a pre-campaign campaign.

In the airshows of rented space of Beehive Radio and FM93.5, the Human Rights Party, led by former activist Kem Sokha, presents to listeners key platforms: the party's aim to build a true democracy, eradicate totalitarianism, establish a society of justice, and fight corruption and injustice.

Also over the airwaves comes the Voice of Royalism, a special program by the Norodom Ranariddh Party, which splintered from the traditional royalists, Funcinpec, in 2006, and is led by the son of former king Norodom Sihanouk.

The Voice of Royalism attacks the ruling party and raises sensitive issues such as inflation. The program accuses the ruling Cambodian People's Party of instigating inflation and purposely provoking problems for the country, such as border issues and illegal immigration.

As the program calls attention to royalist leanings, Prime Minister Hun Sen, who is the vice president of the CPP, has said his party remains a supporter and protector of Cambodia's royal tradition.

"We make an effort to protect royalism, and the CPP supports totally the royal institutions and the king," Hun Sen said in a radio address earlier this month.

Funcinpec, meanwhile, promotes itself for helping the reconstruction of the country, as a coalition party to CPP.

The opposition Sam Rainsy Party, broadcasting on FM105 and FM93.5, allows listeners to call in and discuss their woes.

Such broadcasting activity is not banned by election law, said Tep Nytha, secretary-general of the National Election Committee.

"There are no laws to prevent this liberty, except during the campaign period, when the election law limits some political activity," he said.

Koul Panha, executive director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections, agreed.

However, he said, the broadcast space rented by competing parties is little when compared with the media supporting the ruling party.