US Senator Doug Ericksen yesterday said that he wanted to observe the upcoming national election while meeting with Foreign Affairs Minister Prak Sokhonn.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, undersecretary of state Meas Kim Heng said that Mr Ericksen planned to visit Cambodia again to observe the national election on July 29.
“He [Mr Ericksen] confirmed that he plans to come to Cambodia to be an observer for the election,” Mr Kim Heng said. “He also confirmed that he will lead a delegation to observe this election.”
He said that Mr Ericksen was satisfied with the June 4, 2017 commune election process being held freely and fairly.
Mr Sokhonn applauded Mr Ericksen’s commitment and told him that there would be about 20 political parties to contest the election on July 29 and that Cambodia needed more observers, Mr Kim Heng said.
However, Mr Kim Heng could not say if the US senator’s plans would represent his country’s stance.
“He did not confirm whether he will come as an individual, or as a senator, but he said that he plans to lead a delegation to visit Cambodia,” Mr Kim Heng said.
Mr Ericksen is a US senator for Washington state from the ruling Republican Party. His visit to the Kingdom yesterday was aimed at improving trade relations with Cambodia.
Mr Ericksen said that according to US President Donald Trump’s policy, the US would not interfere with another country’s sovereignty, Mr Kim Heng said.
Meeting with Mr Sokhonn, the US senator told the minister that he wanted to see the relationship between both countries on the mend.
In response to the dissolution of the opposition CNRP, the US and European Union suspended funding for the election.
In December, the US imposed visa restrictions on Cambodian government officials deemed to have been undermining democracy.
During his visit, Mr Ericksen met with Cambodian leaders, including Senate President Say Chhum and Prime Minister Hun Sen.
After meeting with Mr Hun Sen at the Peace Palace on Monday, Mr Ericksen told reporters that the US was hoping to work with the Cambodian government to ensure the election on July 29 was free and fair.
“We believe that the election coming up in July should be free and open. We will look forward to working with Cambodia to make sure their elections are free and open, but it’s up to Cambodia to make decisions for how they want to run their country and handle their internal politics,” Mr Ericksen said.
Speaking to more than 28,000 garment workers in Svay Rieng province yesterday, Mr Hun Sen said that more political parties will contest the election this year than in 2013.
He added that even though there was no CNRP, there were many political parties for citizens to cast votes for.
Until now, 22 political parties have received application forms from the National Election Committee to field candidates to contest the election. So far, three parties have registered.
NEC spokesperson Dim Sovannarom welcomed the US senator’s remark.
“The NEC welcomes all countries to be election observers without discrimination,” Mr Sovannarom said.
Sam Kuntheamy, executive director of election watchdog Nicfec, welcomed Mr Ericksen’s intention to observe the election.
“Even if he comes as an individual or represents the government, we welcome him. It is good for him to evaluate facts and the real situation of the election in Cambodia,” Mr Kuntheamy said, noting that Mr Ericksen’s remark did not represent the US government’s stance.