Opposition leader Sam Rainsy has scored a late political victory in his whirlwind two-week tour to Europe and the United States to try and ramp up international pressure on the newly formed Cambodian government ahead of his return Tuesday.
Last Wednesday, a prominent Republican Party senator, Lindsey Graham, submitted a resolution to the US Senate calling for military assistance to the Kingdom to be suspended until a credible investigation into election irregularities is mounted and the government commits itself to electoral reform.
The resolution references the Cambodia National Rescue Party’s boycott of the National Assembly due to unaddressed election irregularities that the CNRP claims cost it additional parliamentary seats.
The CNRP has refused to take its 55 seats in the assembly until the government commits to an independent investigation of irregularities and a series of reforms.
The resolution, which has been passed to the Committee on Foreign Relations, is the first attempt in the US Congress to enforce punitive measures on Cambodia following the disputed July 28 poll.
Five US lawmakers submitted a resolution to the House of Representatives on July 19 following a scathing congressional hearing on Cambodia that called for more accountable foreign aid.
It said that an “illegitimate” Cambodian government formed as a result of unfair elections should not receive US aid.
That effort followed a similarly worded Senate resolution on June 7, submitted by Graham and another senator.
While the US government has not expressly said the election was illegitimate, the US embassy in Phnom Penh has continued to urge the government to investigate irregularities and has yet to officially congratulate Prime Minister Hun Sen.
Ahead of a meeting between Rainsy and US Deputy Secretary of State William J Burns on October 16, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said that the US continued to support a “credible and transparent review of the election”.
Carlyle Thayer, a Southeast Asia expert at the Australian Defence Force Academy, said that the latest resolution was unlikely to have much or any effect on the Cambodian government, even if aid cuts eventually occurred.
“Suspending military aid will not move the Hun Sen regime one iota. It also does not address who is responsible for the electoral irregularities: the Cambodian People’s Party,” he said in an email.
“It is highly improbable that the US will get Cambodia to agree to an independent commission. The US position is undercut by the actions of Australia, the UN secretary-general and other states in offering their pro forma congratulations [to Hun Sen].”
Council of Ministers spokesman Ek Tha declined to comment yesterday, while Information Minister Khieu Kanharith did not respond to a request for comment.
Rainsy was in Rome yesterday, and met with Italian Foreign Minister Emma Bonino on Saturday.