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Japanese spark reform hopes

Officials prepare to open a ballot box in Kampong Cham during last year’s national elections
Officials prepare to open a ballot box in Kampong Cham during last year’s national elections. Heng Chivoan

Japanese spark reform hopes

Following a request from the government, a Japanese study team arrived yesterday for a five-day visit to assist with electoral reforms, with analysts and politicians optimistic about possible results.

According to a statement released by the Japanese Embassy yesterday, the study team was dispatched “to conduct a needs survey for Japan’s assistance for electoral reform in Cambodia”.

The group, comprising 10 Japanese government officials and academics, is headed by Senya Mori, deputy director-general of the Industrial Development and Public Policy Department of the Japan International Cooperation Agency.

Senior Cambodian People’s Party lawmaker Cheam Yeap said Ben Chhin, deputy prime minister and leader of the CPP’s negotiation team, will lead a delegation to receive the group at the party headquarters this morning.

“We will listen to the Japanese expertise, and we will report [on the current political situation],” Yeap said.

While he was optimistic about the outcomes, he said that the group was not here to end the political deadlock.

“Japan’s assistance is aimed to help electoral reform, not to find a resolution over an obstinate demand for an early election.”

Cambodia National Rescue Party lawmaker-elect Son Chhay, whose party will also meet with the study team this morning, was more hopeful.

“Having them here could bring about a joint committee of reform to resume talks, at least on electoral reform,” he said.

“By having the Japanese government prepared to support electoral reform talks [it shows] the Japanese could play a role as mediator . . . This trip is technical, but the government of Japan could do more on the political side.”

Chea Vannath, an independent political analyst, said Japan had strong credentials to assist Cambodia.

“Japan has never had a dispute with the results of an election because it has a good concept of the meaning of democracy [and] building trust with each other.”

Laura Thornton, country director of the National Democratic Institute, said she hoped to raise issues including “reforming the NEC, and issues with voter registration and the quality of the voter list”.

Fifty-five elected lawmakers from the CNRP have dismissed the results of July’s national polls and are boycotting the National Assembly.

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