Despite analysts’ predictions that the official congratulations recently offered by France and Australia to Prime Minister Hun Sen could lead to a raft of other Western donors following suit, the United States yesterday appeared to be in no hurry to endorse his election victory.
“The United States has an interest in the democratic process, but does not support any particular political party or individuals,” US embassy spokesman Sean McIntosh said.
Although the US government often congratulates world leaders on their successful election, the spokesman said that it was not universal diplomatic protocol and depended on the “specific context”.
“It depends on the situation. Not all situations are the same. In the Cambodian context, we are still concerned with the irregularities that have gone on and we still call for an investigation into those matters,” McIntosh told the Post. “It’s all about improving the democratic and electoral process. That’s what we care about.”
The European Union also remains a significant donor that has yet to officially congratulate the new government. The local EU envoy declined to comment yesterday.
Although US Ambassador William Todd attended the inauguration of the National Assembly on September 23, the embassy quickly released a statement saying that his attendance was “not an endorsement of any election outcome or of any political party”.
While a number of government spokesmen could not be reached yesterday, Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said on Sunday that though foreign congratulations gave “more weight” to the government, its legitimacy could only come from the election and the King.
Chheang Vannarith, a professor in Asia-Pacific studies at the University of Leeds, said, however, that international recognition was important for any new government and especially for Cambodia.
“Cambodia relies so much on the development assistance from major donor governments such as China, Japan, the EU, the US and Australia. In its case, Cambodia needs to get diplomatic support from them,” he said.