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Japan confirms it will fund national election amid political crackdown

Prime Minister Hun Sen (centre) inks his index finger as his wife Bun Rany (centre left) votes at a polling station during the 2013 general election in Kandal province.
Prime Minister Hun Sen (centre) inks his index finger as his wife Bun Rany (centre left) votes at a polling station during the 2013 general election in Kandal province. AFP

Japan confirms it will fund national election amid political crackdown

Japan confirmed yesterday it will go forward with plans to contribute funding to Cambodia’s upcoming national election, despite an ongoing political crackdown.

Iwao Horii, vice minister for Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, met with Cambodian Foreign Affairs Minister Prak Sokhonn on Wednesday and Thursday, pledging various aid commitments to the Kingdom.

Among those pledges was a reaffirmation of Japan’s commitment to fund the election, according to Hironori Suzuki, Japanese Embassy counsellor.

“With regard to the political situation in Cambodia, [Horii] expressed the expectation that Cambodia’s next national election will be conducted in a free and fair manner, noting that Japan will continue to provide electoral reform assistance,” Suzuki wrote by email.

Suzuki noted that the “recent escalation of political tension” was “worrying”, but said Horii still expected the polls to be held “in a way that the international community will welcome”.

The Cambodia National Rescue Party is on the brink of dissolution amid an ongoing crackdown on the opposition that has seen party President Kem Sokha jailed on charges of “treason.”

Human Rights Watch’s Phil Robertson, accused Japan of “play[ing] along with a corrupt, rights abusing dictator . . . who is subverting democracy”.

“Do human rights and democracy matter so little to Tokyo that they are prepared to sacrifice them as collateral damage in their ongoing cold war with China for influence in Phnom Penh?” Robertson asked, adding the “rancid stink of the death of Cambodian democracy will stick to their reputation forever”.

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