Prime Minister Hun Sen has announced that the democratic process in Cambodia will continue unabated, noting that the national election will not be postponed or cancelled as it has been in other countries.
Speaking at a groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of a stretch of National Road 5, Mr Hun Sen said yesterday that people needed to vote under the framework of multi-party democracy.
He added that following a successful Senate election last month, the national election would be held on July 29.
“We have not stopped any elections in Cambodia, as have other countries who abandoned the election because of the political environment. There will be no postponement in Cambodia,” the premier said. “This is the normal process of Cambodian democracy.”
He added that Cambodian people understood the election process because the country has been a democracy for a long time already.
“We can be considered as mature political leaders, but any democracy must have rule of law. It cannot be a democracy that lacks legal control or it will be anarchy,” he said.
Sam Rainsy, the self-exiled former leader of the CNRP, yesterday on Twitter promoted an article he had written entitled “Japan can help restore democracy in Cambodia”.
Mr Rainsy said that supporters of democracy could not understand Japan’s rationale behind technically and financially supporting an election that is morally flawed.
Last month, Japan’s ambassador to Cambodia, Hidehisa Horinouchi, signed an agreement with Foreign Affairs Minister Prak Sokhonn at the ministry, granting about $7.5 million in aid to the National Election Committee for the election.
“After the dissolution of the CNRP, an election without the participation of the only viable opposition party has no meaning, other than to provide legitimacy for a dictatorial regime,” Mr Rainsy said.
In January, the former opposition leader requested the polls be postponed to avoid violence and Cambodia becoming a pariah state.
However, Mr Hun Sen quickly shot down the idea, saying both the Senate and general elections would go ahead as scheduled.
Since the dissolution of the CNRP in November, Western countries have threatened to cut off electoral aid and assistance to the government, but allies such as China, Japan, South Korea and Russia continue to support the electoral process in Cambodia.
Late last year, the United States and European Union suspended funding for the election and in December, the US imposed visa restrictions on government officials deemed to have been undermining democracy.
In February, the EU threatened Cambodia with economic sanctions after the CPP announced it had won every seat in a Senate election.
Late last week, 45 countries called on the government to reinstate the dissolved CNRP and all its elected members to their national and commune seats to ensure that the national election is free, fair and credible.
Former Funcinpec official Lu Lay Sreng, who was found guilty in absentia of defaming Mr Hun Sen for comments made in a private phone conversation, claimed in a Facebook video yesterday that the CNRP, if allowed to participate in the election, would only gain marginal ground.
“If the Cambodia National Rescue Party won they could borrow the house of the Cambodian People’s Party, but they wouldn’t have control of the troops and there would be no structure,” he said.
Yoeurng Sotheara, a former legal officer at election watchdog Comfrel, said that the election can go ahead, but the credibility of the election was in question as it lacked claims of legitimacy from the international community.
“It is the decision of the government as well as the ruling party. I personally think this is the first experience in the history of Cambodia, starting from 1993, in which politicians are finding it difficult to solve the political crisis,” he said.