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Former Royal Aide Opens Think Tank

Former Royal Aide Opens Think Tank

Canberra Foreign minister Gareth Evans has pitched in with Australian $20,000 to

help a former aide to Prince Norodom Sihanouk set up a pro-democracy, non-profit

education, research and training center in the capital.

Julio Jeldres, who left the royal household last year after serving the former monarch

for more than a decade, said the Khmer Institute of Democracy's immediate aim is

to: "Make Khmers familiar with the modus operandi of a democratic government."

A longer term plan would be to turn the Institute-the brainchild of Cambodian exiles

in California-into a "think tank that can help successive governments,"

added Jeldres who is the organization's acting director and a naturalized Australian

from Chile.

Democracy has been an alien concept for so many years in Cambodia and the ll-member

board of the Institute (five Cambodians and six foreigners, to be with the ex-officio

representation by each of the four major political factions, aims to rectify this

by promoting widespread discussion on the topic. Public seminars, workshops and debates

will be major vehicles for propagating democratic ideals and principles, with university

students a key initial target.

The Institute will also sponsor education research to promote democracy as the nation

prepares for its first multi-party general elections in years, and build up a corps

of local teachers to spread the word and foster democratic values at the grass-roots

level.

At the same time the Institute will open up links with other fledgling independent

organizations sponsoring human rights and make contact with political parties-more

than a dozen at the last count.

"Prince Sihanouk approved establishment of the Institute in Phnom Penh on Jan.

16 and on Aug. 12 he gave permission for my appointment as acting director,"

said Jeldres, who held the rank of ambassador when he quit the royal service in December.

Start-up funding has come from different sources in Australia and North America,

including the generous gift from peace plan architect Evans and several thousand

dollars from private donors in the United States.

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