A Malaysian parliamentarian raised concerns in his country on Wednesday about Cambodia’s July 29 national elections and urged his government to clarify its position on the subject, the Asean Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) said on Thursday.
Wong Chen, a member of the People’s Justice Party (PKR) which is part of Malaysia’s ruling coalition, said: “I urge the Malaysian government to take a more proactive stance on Cambodia in the same way we took a proactive stance against the Myanmar government on the Rohingya refugee issue under the Najib administration,” he said.
But the Cambodian Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan brushed off the comments, saying that as Malaysia is just a small country, it can’t wade into the internal affairs of Cambodia.
“I believe that we, as a new government, owe a duty not only to reform our own election laws to safeguard justice and uphold democracy but that we go further and promote and safeguard free and fair elections in the Asean region,” Chen, who is also a member of APHR, said.
Siphan countered, saying: “He is just a Malaysian parliamentarian. Malaysia is a full-rights member of Asean, which will not interfere in the internal affairs of another member state.”
Adding that Chen is of no interest to the Royal Government of Cambodia, Siphan said he is just a representative of a small country, not Asean. “[Malaysia] is not America or France, it is just a small country,” he stressed.
In the lead-up to this month’s elections, the international community has expressed concern about Cambodia’s democratic development.
And while China and Japan continue to help fund the National Election Committee (NEC), the US and the European Union (EU) have withdrawn funds.
Political analyst Lao Mong Hay said Chen’s letter will have little impact because Asean governments are bound by the bloc’s policy of non-interference in each other’s internal affairs.
“As it has done before, the Cambodian government would use this principle to ward off what it would call interference in the current election, which is very much the country’s internal affair,” he said.