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Cambodian woman crowned as Asean debate champion

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The three Cambodian contestants – including Sok Sonita (second right) – pose with Cambodian Human Rights Committee vice-president Polyne Hean (second left). FRESH NEWS

Cambodian woman crowned as Asean debate champion

A 19-year-old Cambodian woman was chosen as one of the five winners at the Asean Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) 6th Annual Youth Debate on Friday.

After a very challenging debate, Sok Sonita, one of the three Cambodian contestants, won the championship along with a contestant each from Malaysia and the Philippines and two from Singapore.

The contest was held in Bangkok on September 18-20 with the participation of 30 outstanding students from all 10 Asean member states.

Sonita, a second-year student at the American University of Phnom Penh, who is majoring in Business Administration, said: “The national and Asean debate competitions mainly focused on human rights.

“This debate platform is great since it allows outstanding students from each country in Asean to work together as a team. This means that throughout the debates, Asean youths had an opportunity to build solidarity as well,” she said.

For her winning debate, Sonita argued that medicine produced from marijuana should be legalised in Asean.

Cambodian Human Rights Committee vice-president Polyne Hean told The Post on Sunday: “Before joining the debate in Thailand, we held a national competition to determine which three outstanding students [would get to go] from among the 40 selected from universities in Cambodia.”

Polyne, who is also the director-general of the Office of the Council of Ministers and the Cambodia representative to the AICHR, complimented the three contestants’ debating skills and techniques, excellent English proficiency, wide general knowledge and insight into human rights issues.

She said the competition is aimed at shaping Asean youths’ understanding of human rights, promoting solidarity among them and strengthening their solidarity, public speaking, critical thinking and leadership skills.

It is a useful platform for improving cooperation between Asean countries on issues related to human rights and youth, she said.

The five main topics debated at the contest were seasonal limits on the number of tourists visiting national parks, criminal offence sentences for minors below 16 years of age, law enforcement on carbon taxation in Asean, the legality of marijuana-derived medicine and whether the government has the right to monitor citizens’ Internet usage, Polyne said.

“I would like to encourage all Cambodian youths to continue to study hard and bring in victory after victory for themselves, their families and the whole nation,” she said.

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