Suos Yara, a National Assembly lawmaker and spokesman for the ruling CPP, speaks to Khmer Times about the outlook of politics in the country following his party’s win in the national election last month, when it secured all 125 parliamentary seats.
KT: Has Cambodia become a one-party state?
Mr Yara: People tend to be surprised that the 2018 election resulted in a one-party rule and attach negative connotations to it. It is the first time since the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia, but it is not the first time in Cambodia’s history. In elections in 1962 and 1966, the Sangkum Reastr Niyum party of Prince Norodom Sihanouk won 100 percent of the seats. Under the prince’s rule, Cambodia was widely considered as the pearl of Asia.
The CPP strictly adheres to a multi-party liberal political system, which is the foundation of sustainable peace and development. Definitely, the CPP will never seek to have a one-party rule, given it is against our constitution and the will of the Cambodian people. Cambodia will not be able to enjoy peace and development if there is no strong democratic institution.
The results of the 2018 election genuinely reflect the will of Cambodian people. Surprisingly, the CPP won a landslide victory with all 125 seats at the National Assembly. This does not mean that Cambodia will fall into a one-party state.
The CPP will put people first in the new government. Performance is the key source of legitimacy of the new government. Therefore, the CPP-led government is going to double its efforts in delivering results.
Prime Minister Hun Sen has also created a “Supreme Consultative Council” that includes parties from the 2018 election. This council will fill the void left by having just one party within the National Assembly by providing recommendations directly to the Prime Minister on key laws, development issues, lack of activities within ministries and any corruption.
KT: How will the new government deal with international pressure and sanctions?
Mr Yara: When talking about sanctions, Cambodia has been humble by not talking about the sanctions’ impacts on other countries. This is a globalised world where goods and services flow without strict borders and the people mutually benefit from free trade. Many people in Europe and the United States have benefited greatly from cheap, high quality Cambodian products. Another measure is to diversify our export markets and sources of growth. We need to diversify our economic partners for our survival and long-term interests. We cannot rely on a single or few countries.
During the election, there were 52 countries which viewed it as free, fair and credible. These countries account for three billion people worldwide. So in today’s world, Cambodia has many friends and partners including our ASEAN friends who unite in support of each other. Of course, we need to do more to help our international partners and friends, especially the US and EU, understand Cambodia’s genuine efforts and unswerving political commitment in maintaining peace and development through the promotion and protection of democratic system and human rights. We are trying our best to explain to the US and the EU that Cambodian society has embraced democratic values and freedom and it would be political suicide for the CPP if it aims to destroy hard-earned democracy.
Any type of sanction on Cambodia will affect the livelihood of our people. We will continue to work hard to convince our partners and friends that democracy is not dead, but on the other hand democracy is thriving and growing.
KT: What will be the priority areas for reform?
Mr Yara: Putting the people’s interests and aspirations first is our top priority. We will pursue people-centred, people-oriented development, as well as foreign policy. The new priority of the government is to invest more in human capital, as we need to move our development ladder toward a knowledge-based economy and digital economy.
Innovation will be the key term in our reforms both in the public and private sectors. We foresee that if we invest more in innovation from now, Cambodia can realise its vision of becoming a high-middle income country by 2030 and high-income country by 2050. We need to overcome the middle-income trap in order to realise that vision. To do that, we need to have an innovative society, innovative institutions, and innovative infrastructure.
Governance reforms, especially in the war on corruption, will gain new momentum. We are aware that corruption is the root cause of many social and economic issues. However, we must accept the fact that corruption is a complex issue. We need to deal with it carefully and holistically. It needs to be implemented through both top-down and bottom-up approaches.