Cambodia does not need international recognition for upcoming elections: PM

Cambodia does not need international recognition for upcoming elections: PM

PHNOM PENH: The result of Cambodia’s 2018 national election does not need the United Nations’ recognition and the country is determined to hold elections on schedule, said Prime Minister Hun Sen on Thursday (Jan 18).

“The upcoming elections will be held no matter what happens,” said Hun Sen, who marked 33 years in power last weekend. “We are committed to our democratic process as per our schedule.”

Hun Sen’s reaction came after local newspaper Phnom Penh Post reported on Thursday that there could be no elections in “a chaotic country”. The prime minister dismissed the article’s claims and demanded that the paper’s writers and analyst make corrections.

Cambodia is set to hold two elections this year. The senate election will be held on Feb 25 while the national election will be held on Jul 29, despite strong criticism from the international community after the main opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) was dissolved by the country's supreme court in November last year.

In response to the dissolution of CNRP, the United States and European Union subsequently suspended their aid for the upcoming general election, saying voting could not be legitimate without the opposition.

However, Hun Sen has continued to repeat his stance that Cambodia will hold its elections as scheduled.

Cambodian law clearly states that even though the date will be announced by prime minister, he will need to follow the conditions laid out in the Constitution and that the prime minister has no right to set the election beyond what is stipulated in the Constitution, Hun Sen said.

"An election requires the Cambodian people to participate; it doesn’t require the president of any country or the United Nations’ secretary general or a multi-party mechanism to recognise this election," said Hun Sen.

"I believed that situation in our country is a situation which is moving forward in the framework of a multi-party democracy."

Hun Sen's claims were also seen as a reaction to former CNRP president Sam Rainsy’s comment on Twitter on Wednesday in which he proposed that elections be postponed until it is able to meet intentional standards. 

FILE PHOTO: Cambodian opposition leader Sam Rainsy answers questions during an interview with Reute
Cambodian opposition leader Sam Rainsy answers questions during an interview with Reuters at a hotel in metro Manila, Philippines, on Jun 29, 2016. (Photo: REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco/File Photo)

“I would like to make this proposal to Hun Sen: Let’s postpone the next national elections until we all have guaranties that those polls can meet minimum international standards. This would avoid both violence and Cambodia becoming a pariah state,” he said.

But government spokesman Phay Siphan said there will be no compromise with Sam Rainsy and dismissed his comments as part of a campaign to intimidate.

“So, there is no compromise in the sense of politics. We have to follow the rule of law and the judgment of the court,” said Siphan. “This case is not a case of political conflict or armed conflict.”

Phay Siphan does not believed there would be any violence as Sam Raisy claimed. However, he said the authorities will take action to maintain public order if there are any violent protests on the streets.

He said each previous election was held based on Cambodia’s electoral law' adding that there is no law requiring the election result to be recognised by the international community.

“There is no single article, including the Constitution, which states that the election needs to be recognised by foreigners. There is none since 1993," he said. 

“The election in Cambodia is for the benefit of Cambodia and not for the benefit of any country.”

However, political analyst So Chantha said Cambodia needs recognition from the international community and that Cambodia cannot walk away from the international stage, as Cambodia is not a developed country and needs investments.

“Cambodia is not a developed country and cannot solely rely on its own yet. It needs relations, both investment and political, on the international stage.” So Chantha said.

He added that Cambodia should move forward and have a clear plan in making relations with the international community.

“We need to have a balance in relationships between powerful countries and other international communities,” So Chantha said. “Cambodia cannot cut itself off from the world.”

So Chantha did not see any sign that the claim by Sam Raisy will lead to political violence protest on the street. 

However, he is worried that should the US and EU stop their export quotas, it could cause 700,000 to one million Cambodians losing their jobs - and that could lead to protests. 

Cambodia free Kem Sokha protest
Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) supporters hold placards that read "Free Kem Sokha" during a protest outside the court of appeal in Phnom Penh on Sep 26, 2017. (Photo: AFP/Tang Chhin Sothy)

“What I worry is that protests from the workers will lead to a political movement that creates chaos,” said So Chantha. “It could start from an employment crisis and economic crisis and lead to a political crisis.”

Korn Savang, monitoring coordinator for the Committee for Free and Fair Elections, said also he supports the claim made by So Chantha that Cambodian elections should be recognised by the international community and that this will help Cambodia’s image with other countries.

However, he said a free and fair election needs to have the participation of independent media, and that parties should also be able to participate freely without intimidation.

He sees that the dissolution of the CNRP and the ban of its officials from politicsas unhelpful towards creating a base for free and fair elections, especially as the CNRP and its officials were dissolved and banned despite no guilty verdicts.

He said it was a demolition of the will of the more than three million Cambodians who voted for CNRP, adding that the 118 banned CNRPs officials should be allowed to return to politics.

“It is a problem and it's not right, because there are some amendments on the law and this has demolished the voice of more than three million Cambodians.”

He added: “We hope that the court, the government and all political parties will have talks with each other again in order to ease the political situation."

Source: CNA/ec/rw