Sam Rainsy, president of Cambodia National Rescue Party, yesterday lauded the victory of Aung San Suu Kyi in Myanmar’s elections, saying it was good news for democracy worldwide, “especially for Cambodia.”
Mr. Rainsy made the comments in a post on his Facebook page accompanied with photos of himself with the Nobel Laureate. The post proved popular, drawing 3,300 shares and more 32,000 likes.
Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) swept nearly all of the seats initially declared by the country’s election commission, putting it on track for massive gains, while the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party won almost none.
Mr. Rainsy made the post after it was announced that the NLD won 15 of the first 16 seats where votes were counted, causing hope of a decisive victory to surge.
However, Council of Minister’s spokesman Phay Siphan was swift to dismiss Mr. Rainsy’s post as “ignorant.”
“It shows his ignorance to Cambodian people because Cambodia and Myanmar have different political policies and differences in leadership,” Mr. Siphan said. He also accused Mr. Rainsy of trying to use the NLD’s victory as an attempt to draw attention to the CNRP. “Sam Rainsy is stealing the show of the opposition party in Myanmar which won the election,” Mr. Siphan said, adding that Mr. Rainsy was turning the NLD’s victory into a “political advertisement for his party.”
CNRP spokesman Nhem Ponharith could not be reach for comment.
Ou Virak, president of think tank Future Forum, said the elections in Myanmar are historic because the military regime has not allowed free elections in more than 25 years. He said both the CNRP and the ruling Cambodian People’s Party are closely watching events in Myanmar because they could have an influence here. Cambodians are watching people in Myanmar vote for change, Mr. Virak said.
“The results [in Myanmar] can give Cambodians who support the CNRP hope,” Mr. Virak said.
“The military regime has always threatened war if they lost, but now they have lost so this shows that Myanmar people are not afraid of that threat,” he said. Mr. Virak said this despite numerous reports over the past few years quoting senior officers in Myanmar’s military and leaders of the USDP explicitly stating they would support the results of the election.
Comments on Mr. Rainsy’s Facebook page showed that the election in Myanmar was seen by some here as a model for Cambodia’s national election in 2018. Many people commented that the election is a good example for Cambodia. Others urged the ruling party to pay attention to Myanmar, saying they can expect the same to happen here.
In Cambodia’s disputed 2013 elections the ruling Cambodian People’s Party suffered a shock loss of 22 seats. It hung onto its majority with 68 seats, while the CNRP won 55. The opposition rejected the results at the time, saying it had been cheated out of a victory. A near yearlong stalemate followed in which the CNRP boycotted the National Assembly, before an agreement was reached in which it joined the assembly in exchange for a series of reforms, including an independent election commission.
Cambodia National Rescue Party president Sam Rainsy (R) speaks to the media as deputy president Kem Sokha (L) looks on in Tokyo last night. Mr. Rainsy prematurely and true to character called for a peaceful transfer of power in elections in 2018 (on the assumption his party will defeat the CPP) and said Cambodians would be encouraged by the historic vote in Myanmar on Sunday that saw the Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s opposition party win.AFP