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Cambodians in the West Watching Election Process in Homeland

Prum Sao Nora at PPA meeting 2011

Cambodians living in the US and Canada say the upcoming elections in their home country should emulate the democratic process of the West.

In interviews with VOA Khmer, they said they wanted elections in Cambodia that are free of fear and intimidation. But they also said, following free and fair elections, constituents must watch their representatives closely, to ensure they have delivered.

Cheang Ngo, who was born in Kandal province and now lives in the US, said he had voted in many US elections, where he hoped to choose leaders that would help people’s everyday lives and would address national issues.

“The most important thing for a voter’s rights is to choose a great leader for the future of the nation, and for younger generations in particular,” he said. “So I wish to appeal to all voters to vote according to your will and don’t be afraid, don’t be frightened, don’t be cheated into thinking that someone knows for which party you vote.”

The biggest issues facing Cambodia are those of illegal immigration by Vietnamese and the transparent development of the country, he said.

After elections, voters should “monitor continuously,” he said. “If we have voted for a leader and they only speak without action, we choose another leader for the next term.”

Samoeun Yem, who was born in Kampong Thom province and now lives in Montreal, Canada, said politicians there are forced to resign if they don’t meet their promises.

“Cases of corruption lead to resignations without hesitation,” he told VOA Khmer by phone.

For voters in Cambodian elections, he said that if politicians follow the people’s will, they should be voted back in.

“On the other hand, if the people see that the government that has been holding power for more than 30 years makes no progress, and if the people want to see improvements, such as freedom and democracy, then people should turn to the opposition or other parties, according to their will.”

Prom Sonaura, a Cambodian-American, said leaders must change if they don’t accomplish much.

“In the US, people know,” he said. “If a leader cannot work, he will never get re-elected.”

All three said that in their new home countries, citizens vote freely, while politicians have free and equal access to the media. They debate on television, and voters can cast their ballots early, including by mail. Agencies overseeing the elections work to resolve complaints as quickly as possible.

Meanwhile, all three said, with Cambodia’s elections just over a month away, the Cambodian media remains tightly restricted, while the opposition faces obstacles like court cases against their leaders.

However, Tep Nitha, secretary-general of Cambodia’s National Election Committee, said Cambodian elections are improving. There is less violence than in the past, he said.

“Today, we don’t have problems,” he said. “It’s just tension and mutual criticism among politicians.”

Hang Puthea, head of the Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free and Fair Elections, said he wants Cambodia to have legal and fair elections. That has become problematic, because politicians now don’t trust the NEC to resolve their problems, he said.

“In other countries, they are strict, meaning that they put the laws above all,” he said. “In Cambodia, no matter what law is written, it is not applied.”