Japan ‘expresses concern’ over CNRP

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn shakes hands with his Japanese counterpart Kazuyuki Nakane at the 13th Asia-Europe Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Myanmar. Facebook

Japan ‘expresses concern’ over CNRP

Japan’s foreign minister joined the EU in voicing alarm over the dissolution of the CNRP to Cambodian Minister of Foreign Affairs Prak Sokhonn at a ministerial summit in Myanmar on Monday – even as his Chinese counterpart reiterated Beijing’s support for the move.

Japan, which is typically tight-lipped on political issues, is funding and offering technical assistance for the 2018 national elections along with the EU.

In a meeting with Sokhonn at the two-day Asia-Europe Meeting of Foreign Ministers’ (ASEM), Japanese Minister of Foreign Affairs Kazuyuki Nakane “expressed concern” over last week’s dissolution of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, and urged the Kingdom to conduct next year’s election “in a way that appropriately reflects the will of the people”, said Hironori Suzuki, counsellor for the Embassy of Japan in Phnom Penh.

However, Japan will continue to provide assistance to the National Election Committee while “keep[ing] dialogue” with the Cambodian government, Suzuki said.

Japan joins several Western countries in their disapproval of the Supreme Court’s decision last week, though Prime Minister Hun Sen has declared he does not care about international criticism. In a speech on Sunday, the premier dared the international community to cut aid, saying he was confident China would fill the gap.

Indeed, the meeting between Sokhonn and China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Monday struck a decidedly more friendly tone, according to a statement from China’s Foreign Ministry provided to Reuters.

According to the statement, China “supports the Cambodian side’s efforts to protect political stability and achieve economic development”, and believes the Cambodian government can hold elections “smoothly” next year.

In her own meeting with Sokhonn at the summit, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini repeated warnings that Cambodia is risking its preferential trade agreements with the EU.

She also criticised Cambodia’s “significant steps away from the path of pluralism and democracy”.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn (left) meets with High Representative for Foreign Affairs for the EU Federica Mogherini (right) at the 13th Asia-Europe meeting of Foreign Ministers on Monday in Myanmar. Facebook

Bates Gill, a professor of Asia-Pacific security studies at Macquarie University in Sydney, said China’s political support helps Cambodian leaders deflect criticism from the international community.

“Given the deepening political and economic relationship between Phnom Penh and Beijing, it should come as no surprise that Cambodia’s leaders value support from China above disapproval from the United States and Europe,” Gill said in an email.

Paul Chambers, a lecturer at the College of ASEAN Community Studies at Thailand’s Naresuan University, said Beijing is giving Hun Sen political legitimacy in exchange for preferential treatment for Chinese companies doing business in the Kingdom.

“It is such a reciprocal arrangement which explains why Phnom Penh values Beijing’s opinions most and why Beijing is so supportive of Hun Sen,” Chambers said in an email.

Also yesterday, Swedish Foreign Affairs Minister Margot Wallström said the Scandinavian nation “is currently reviewing the forms of our engagement in Cambodia” and will not initiate any new development agreements, except in education and research.

MOST VIEWED

  • Angkor Wat named as the top landmark for the second year

    Travel website TripAdvisor has named Cambodia’s ancient wonder Angkor Wat as the top landmark in the world for the second year running in their Travelers’ Choice Award 2018, an achievement Cambodian tourism operators expect will attract more tourists to the Kingdom. The website uses traveller

  • New US bill ‘is a violation of Cambodian independence’

    After a US congressmen introduced bipartisan legislation that will enact sanctions on Cambodian officials responsible for “undermining democracy” in the Kingdom, government officials and the ruling Cambodian People’s Party on Sunday said they regarded the potential action as the “violation of independence and sovereignty

  • Ministry’s plan for net sparks fears

    The government has ordered all domestic and international internet traffic in the Kingdom to pass through a Data Management Centre (DMC) that has been newly created by the state-owned Telecom Cambodia, in a move some have claimed is an attempt to censor government critics. Spokesman

  • Hun Sen detractors ‘will die’

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday said those who curse or insult him would eventually die without a plot of land to bury their bodies after being killed by lightning, suffering the same fate as those who recently died in Thmar Baing district in Koh