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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Meas Sovannarith: From volunteer staff to project assistant at the Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia (NICFEC)

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Meas Sovannarith: From volunteer staff to project assistant at the Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia (NICFEC)

‘I don’t have money or a treasury to help my society, but I will try my best to educate the citizens on their rights and their duties in a democratic society, and the benefits of electing good representatives as their leaders. So, this is what I can do to help my country.”

These words were taken from a speech by Meas Sovannarith, 27, a Kandal province youth from a poor farming family who works as a project assistant at the Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free and Fear Elections in Cambodia (NICFEC).

Having started as a volunteer, his hard work led to his full time appointment in 2011.

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“I think that working in the organisation allows me to help people, and go directly to communities, which is why I volunteered for NICFEC,” said Sovannarith when asked why he chose to join the organisation.

“It is what I wish because I can help and educate the citizens in their communities in all provinces.”

From his nearly two years of work as a project assistant, Sovannarith has worked in five projects focusing on politics and democratic strengthening among Cambodian citizens, particularly among women, youths and minority groups. He directly observes and educates citizens in the communities where he works.

Sovannarith is currently working on two projects: a democratisation project that cooperates with the United Nations Democracy Fund (UNDEF), and a project in conjunction with the Spanish NGO Paz y desarrol (PYD) that encourages women and minority groups’ involvement in politics.

Furthermore, Sovannarith also teaches NICFEC observers in the provinces for the upcoming election. He also is responsible for waiting for data from the observers from across the country; after the election is over, he will record the data. And when observers in the provinces need help, he must go out himself to offer assistance.

Working in the political sector is not an easy job, said Sovannarith.

“According to my own experiences, I also have been faced with some concerns in my work,” said Sovannarith.

“For example, when the observers have problems on the Election Day, we must go out immediately, and it’s risky because I cannot prepare myself first. And my responsibilities are many, since I have to control finance management and projects. So, I have to offer much time and energy.”

However, Sovannarith said that he is still able to succeed at those tasks because of his willingness to work and the satisfaction he gets from the job. A graduate student of English literature, he also aims to start a charity organisation to help orphaned children in Cambodia.

As an expert working on the election, Sovannarith has some suggestions to Cambodian citizens who are able to vote:

“I am pleased to announce to all Cambodian citizens who have right to vote to vote altogether, because each vote sets the country’s future for the next five years. So, we must vote for a party according to our willing decisions in order to get the leaders we love.”

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