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Human rights group decries foreign praise

Human rights group decries foreign praise

Human Rights Watch yesterday took the key donor governments of Japan, Australia and France to task for congratulating Prime Minister Hun Sen on his official election victory in a strongly worded statement that called on them to support an independent investigation into July’s disputed poll.

The rights group said the ruling Cambodian People’s Party had shown an “unwillingness” to seriously address complaints of fraud resulting in “an election that has created significant doubt about whether the official results reflect the votes”.

“Democratic leaders should skip the congratulations and instead insist on an independent investigation into malfeasance at the polls,” Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said in the statement.
But political analyst Peter Tan Keo cautioned against reading the political situation in such black-and-white terms, suggesting the US and UK had also lent their tacit support.

“Frankly, it was just a matter of time before Japan, Australia and France congratulated Hun Sen on his victory, following a long line of countries to do so,” he said. “While the US and UK have yet to formally congratulate Mr Hun Sen … they’ve already conceded to the final election results,” he added, pointing to US Ambassador William Todd’s decision to attend the opening of the National Assembly in September, a move he said had little to do with expressing respect for the King as he told reporters.

Nicolas Baudouin, first secretary at the French Embassy, said that while the EU in September called for dialogue to reform the electoral system, maintaining stability was a priority.

“It is important that all Cambodian political actors work together to ensure the proper functioning of institutions, which is essential to democracy,” he wrote in an email yesterday.

Tan Keo commented that the international community’s post-election response represented “a familiar political pattern of quietly conceding to the ruling party, for many reasons, including the need to maintain peace and stability”.

The Australian and Japanese embassies had not responded to requests for comment by press time.

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