Voter turnout rate in the 2018 national election in Cambodia is a landslide participation of more than 80 percent. The National Election Committee has not yet announced official results of the election. The US Ambassador to the Kingdom of Cambodia, Mr William Heidt also observed quietly the election process. Local and international independent observers have viewed the election process as being conducted in a free and fair atmosphere.
Surprisingly and immediately as if predetermined, we saw a statement from White House press secretary on the Cambodian election. The text does not appear consistent with President Trump’s ways and policy line at all. Most likely, the White House statement was done to appease certain sectors in US politics in exchange for some concessions. It could even be written by one or a few of the co-sponsors of Cambodian Democracy Act 2018 because based on the election result and turnout rate in Cambodia their Act would not be passed by the senate.
President Trump is a realist and he does not give much attention to interference around the world. US foreign policy which does not directly benefit the US economy — as he said during his campaign that he prefers “America First” — receives no attention from the president.
President Trump is a business tycoon and he intends to improve US business deals around the world. A lot of US citizens like him and voted for him. He has never attacked Cambodia personally. In contrast, some US lawmakers and officials whose careers depend on Congress funding of foreign interference institutions such as USAID, Freedom House, IRI and others loath Mr Trump because he has threatened them with budget cuts. These politicians pressure Mr Trump and attack him on all fronts.
The result is that President Trump has to cave in on some issues. During the Asean Summit in Manila last year, President Trump admired Prime Minister Hun Sen for his political success and economic triumph for Cambodia.
Mr Trump does not care about different frames of judgment on democracy and standards of human rights, so long as the people are fed, well protected and happy.
Elections promote a healthy democracy. US officials and foreigners should consider the decision of the majority of the Cambodian people who cast their votes as more important than secret political agendas. Unjustly attacking Cambodians will only unite them and make them stronger.
Desperate fugitive Sam Rainsy who undermined the right of voters and campaigned to hinder the election was finally defeated, in shame, by the people. They went to cast their ballots overwhelmingly.
All nations should respect the decision of nearly seven million Cambodians, or more than 80 percent of registered voters.
Alexander Johnson is a Volunteer, Union of Journalist Federations of Cambodia