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Australia to miss opening of assembly due to ‘flawed’ poll

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National Assembly members vote on a law in February of 2017. Photo supplied

Australia to miss opening of assembly due to ‘flawed’ poll

As Australia became the latest Western embassy to announce it would not be sending a representative to Wednesday’s opening of parliament, Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan dismissed the US and EU Ambassadors being “unable to attend” as no loss because “they give no value to Cambodia”.

A spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Australia, told The Post on Tuesday that Australia would not be represented at the inauguration of the National Assembly.

“Given Australia’s views on the flawed election process, Australia will not be represented at the inauguration of Cambodia’s National Assembly on [Wednesday],” the spokesperson said.

The US and EU have openly criticised the national election, which was announced as a landslide victory by prime minister-designate Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party.

Many have decried the absence of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) from the polls, which was dissolved by the Supreme Court last year.

Its president, Kem Sokha, has been charged with treason.

National Assembly spokesman Leng Peng Long was on Tuesday unable to confirm how many ambassadors would be attending, although he said 31 had been invited.

However, Siphan said the absence of some ambassadors from democratic countries had “no value” for Cambodia and would not affect the body’s legitimacy.

“They are just guests. They give no value to Cambodia because the opening of the National Assembly is made according to Cambodian law. Embassies do not function as legal entities. They are just guests. It would not impact legitimacy or validity.

“These embassies tend to interfere with Cambodia’s internal issues and this does not benefit the Kingdom. They are just guests, and it is their choice [to participate] or otherwise. If they have time, they would come to be honoured. If they don’t come, it would not be an honour [for them],” Siphan said.

CPP spokesperson Sok Eysan echoed Siphan’s sentiments, saying it was customary to invite diplomats and ambassadors to the inauguration of the National Assembly, but it was their right to reject such an invitation.

On the absence of the US and EU ambassadors, Eysan said they had their reasons for not attending.

“Since before the July 29 election, the two [countries] announced that they would not support it. They said the election did not reflect the people’s will because of the absence of the outlawed opposition [CNRP].

“I think they favoured the opposition party, so if they come, it seems like they would be killing their own pawn. They provided various excuses to avoid the meeting. I think it is normal,” he said.

Eysan said while it is the Kingdom’s right to invite them, like an invitation for a wedding or other ceremony, the guests have every right to reject the invitation and cannot be blamed as the event will continue as planned.

“If one or two invited embassies do not attend, there will be more than 30 others that are eager to participate. Each embassy, regardless of whether they are large or small, wealthy or poor … are equal in the eyes of the law and at the United Nations,” Eysan said.

Political analyst Lao Mong Hay said: “There will be no problem whatsoever with the one-party [assembly] if the recent election was free and fair, and therefore legitimate.

“These particular characteristics will be assessed positively or negatively by the presence or absence of those invited diplomats, especially those from democratic countries, at the opening of the new National Assembly.”

King Norodom Sihamoni is set to preside over the opening of the sixth mandate of the National Assembly at 8:30am on Wednesday, according to the agenda of the Royal Palace.

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