Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Hun Sen says Cambodia won’t discuss CNRP with Japan




Hun Sen says Cambodia won’t discuss CNRP with Japan

Prime Minister Hun Sen meets with Kentaro Sonoura, adviser to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, on Friday. He is set to meet Japan’s Foreign Affairs Minister Taro Kono next week. Facebook
Prime Minister Hun Sen meets with Kentaro Sonoura, adviser to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, on Friday. He is set to meet Japan’s Foreign Affairs Minister Taro Kono next week. Facebook

Hun Sen says Cambodia won’t discuss CNRP with Japan

Prime Minister Hun Sen said on Tuesday that a meeting with Japanese Foreign Affairs Minister Taro Kono next week would not include discussions of the dissolved CNRP, affirming his commitment to holding this year’s elections while rejecting the possibility of negotiations or pardons for the opposition.

“Both foreign ministers will sign [agreements on] the aid to Cambodia . . . We will discuss other topics, but not you,” he said, in apparent reference to the now-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party.

Japan has continued to support the upcoming national elections even as other democratic countries have pulled back assistance after the forced dissolution of the CNRP. At a meeting last week between the two countries, a Japanese emissary brought up the possibility of a rapprochement between the ruling Cambodian People’s Party and the opposition – an idea immediately rejected by the ruling party.

Hun Sen said the Japanese foreign affairs minister will arrive in Cambodia on Sunday, but Hironori Suzuki, the Japan embassy counsellor in Phnom Penh, said the visit had "not been decided at this moment".

Sukuki said Japan continues to cooperate on development issues with Cambodia, including ongoing projects such as National Road 5 improvement project and a teacher education reform initiative that includes construction of a teacher education college.

Paul Chambers, of Naresuan University in Thailand, said he expected Japan to remain supportive regardless of the political situation.

“Don’t expect any pressure from Japan regarding democracy and human rights in Cambodia,” he said in an email, explaining that it had always supported the CPP “despite clear indications of voter intimidation and election irregularities”.

Preap Kol, director of Transparency International Cambodia, said he believed the Japanese were attempting to remain close to the Cambodian government so as to steer it back in a democratic direction.

“Japan has so far been generous towards [the] Cambodian Government by not making any critical comment about political development in Cambodia and by continuing to support electoral process,” he said in an email. “But I strongly believe that Japan has remained engaged till now in the hope that the political situation could be improved between now and the July election.”

He argued that Japan’s current position “might not be very firm and could be changed in the future” if no improvement took place.

Recently, Japan has expressed concern about democratic backslides, though it has not changed its level of assistance, with Parliamentary Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs Manabu Horii telling the United Nations Human Rights Council earlier in March that “it is vital to conduct general elections this July in a way that appropriately reflects the will of the people”.

Kentaro Sonoura, adviser to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, meets with Prime Minister Hun Sen on Friday about the possibility of opening negotiations with the dissolved CNRP. Facebook
Kentaro Sonoura, adviser to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, meets with Prime Minister Hun Sen on Friday about the possibility of opening negotiations with the dissolved CNRP. Facebook

Referring to a meeting last week with an adviser to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Hun Sen said Japan had not called for negotiations, but merely “tested whether negotiations can take place or not” – an impossibility, he said, by law.

“If I hold negotiations, I will violate the law myself. Someone opposing the Supreme Court’s verdict will be jailed for two-and-a-half years,” the premier said.

The Supreme Court dissolved the CNRP in November and banned 118 members from politics for five years. The trial, which was initiated by a Ministry of Interior complaint and preceded by a series of legal amendments to reallocate opposition seats to either the CPP or a handful of minor parties, has been widely seen by observers as a political manoeuvre to wipe the CNRP – the country’s only viable opposition – off the electoral landscape.

“In total, there are only two ... ‘don’t haves’ and one ‘have’. One ‘have’ means we only have an election, but we have no negotiations, and no pardons,” he said. “You can wait until horns grow on a horse, but you will not meet [with us].”

Kol, of Transparency International, also encouraged negotiations for the sake of public discourse.

“Cambodian people want to see their political leaders to work together hands in hands,” he said. “It is universally believed that a minimum criterion for politicians to be considered mature is when the ruling and opposing political figures can talk to each other and deal with their differences in a decent manner.”

This version adds comments from Hironori Suzuki, the Japan embassy counsellor in Phnom Penh.

MOST VIEWED

  • Tourists urged not to skip trip

    The Ministry of Tourism has called on international tourists not to cancel trips to Cambodia, but urged them to adhere to several dos and don’ts when arriving in the Kingdom during the Covid-19 pandemic. The ministry released an eight-point instruction manual on Wednesday published

  • The taxman cometh – Cambodia’s capital gains tax casts the net on individual taxpayers

    In a country where only limited personal income tax existed, the new taxation law beginning January 1, 2021, will make taxpayers out of Cambodians, whether they are ready for it or not About two years ago, a little known amendment was made to Article 7 of the Law

  • Cambodian-American gets Star Trek treatment

    Kevin Ung, a Cambodian-American whose family escaped genocide during the Khmer Rouge’s reign of terror, was recently selected from thousands of applicants to participate in the Television Academy Foundation’s inaugural 2020 Star Trek Command Training Programme, a course intended to give hands-on filmmaking experience

  • Cambodia seeks to be transport hub

    Cambodia is working on several fronts to modernise its transport infrastructure and services, concentrating on opening new international gates to relieve and balance traffic congestion at its borders, Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol said on Thursday. This is part of the Kingdom’

  • PM: West unfair to Cambodia

    Prime Minister Hun Sen released a message celebrating the International Day of Peace on Monday, saying that some major powers and western countries had been systemically cooperating to put political pressure on Cambodia as they did in the 1970s and 1980s. Hun Sen said pressuring

  • First ‘mobile kitchen’ in Cambodia enters service

    A catering company recently rolled out Cambodia’s first “mobile kitchen” – a $50,000 container capable of serving up to 200 people at a time. The kitchen is the brainchild of Seng Hok Heng Catering Services. At 4.4m-high, 6.8m-long and 2.4m-wide (expandable to 6.8m), the kitchen is equipped