Foreign Minister Prak Sokhon has denied that Cambodia is moving toward being a one-party state after the opposition CNRP was dissolved by the Supreme Court earlier this month.
Ministry spokesman Chum Sounry spoke to media after a closed-door meeting between Mr Sokhonn and five foreign ambassadors from Canada, Finland, Switzerland, Denmark and New Zealand at the Foreign Ministry yesterday.
The diplomats met the minister to discuss the current political situation, including pluralism, democracy and human rights.
Mr Sokhon told them there are 35 political parties in the country.
“The Foreign Minister denied that Cambodia is moving towards becoming a one-party state,” Mr Sounry said, adding that legal action taken by the government was to ensure peace and political stability in the country.
Cambodian officials also used the meeting to explain why the CNRP was dissolved by the Supreme Court, with 118 of its senior members banned from politics for five years.
“The Foreign Minister told them the government wanted to prevent any possible colour revolution or plot to overthrow the legitimate government through intervention from foreign powers,” Mr Sounry said.
In August, Cambodia shut down the US-funded National Democratic Institute and ordered its foreign staff to leave the country after leaked documents claimed to show the organisation had planned to help the CNRP win next year’s national election.
“Mr Sokhon explained the main reason for the closure of NDI’s office was because they did not register with the government either before or after the law on NGOs and associations came into force,” Mr Sounry said. “This is about the improvement of rule of law in the country. All organisations should respect the sovereignty of Cambodia.”
Regarding the closure of the Cambodia Daily, Mr Sokhonn told diplomats that the newspaper shut itself after failing to pay a back tax bill of about $6 million.
“The government did not close their newspaper. They did it by themselves,” Mr Sounry said.
He added that freedom of press in Cambodia is alive and well, with almost 2,000 media outlets in the country – 800 newspapers, 700 websites, 300 radio stations and 21 television stations, as well as 38 press clubs.
“We cannot say that the absence of a single newspaper harms press freedom in the country at all,” Mr Sounry said.