While various countries commented on the Kingdom’s recently concluded national elections, Japan, which is a major donor and key investor in the economy has declined to do so.
“We did not send monitors to observe, so I cannot comment on the elections in Cambodia,” Chief Cabinet Secretary to the Japanese government Yoshihide Suga told the media in Tokyo, a day after the July 29 polls.
However, Australia, the United States and the European Union which also did not send observers, expressed concerns over electoral transparency, among others, because the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) could not participate.
Last November, the Supreme Court dissolved the CRNP after news surfaced that the party was attempting to overthrow the government, allegedly backed by the US.
Nonetheless, the response from economic-powerhouse Japan, despite its influential stature in geopolitics, has raised eyebrows among political circles and analysts.
Political analyst Meas Nee expressed the belief that Japan wants to remain neutral so that if there is a political situation after the elections, that country can intervene to assist.
“When Japan did not send its election monitors to join [the polls process], it seemed to indicate that it was not satisfied with [what] was happening in our country,” he said.
However, Japan’s silence could also be a strategic move by Tokyo.
Nee said Japan does not want Cambodia to become a dictatorship, and at the same time wants to protect its economic interest in the country.
Cambodia, he said, remains an attractive destination for investment-hungry Japanese in Southeast Asia.
Since the Japan External Trade Organisation opened an office in the Kingdom’s capital in 2010, some 1,500 Japanese companies have set up businesses in Cambodia. They have pumped in millions of dollars in investments in the growing domestic market.
The Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC) said Cambodia-Japan bilateral trade stood at just $366 million that year. It jumped to $1.61 billion last year, which indicates healthy trade-ties between the two nations.
“I think Japan may hold further talks [with the government] in the coming weeks after some international pressure. I think there could be a push for Japan to play a role,” Nee said.
Grassroots Democratic Party (GDP) president Yang Saing Koma declined to read too much into Japan’s position.
“It is the business of the Japanese government. If they send their [election] monitors, they could make a conclusion based on their observation,” Koma said.
The Cambodian People’s Party (CCP) has claimed a landslide victory in the polls after winning the popular vote. It is confident of capturing all the 125 seats in the National Assembly.