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Opposition calls on embassies to suspend support

Opposition calls on embassies to suspend support

Opposition lawmakers expelled earlier this month have called on all representatives of foreign governments not to sign any agreements with Cambodia until the national elections in July.   

In the letter sent to embassies, missions and donors yesterday, the expelled Sam Rainsy Party and Human Rights Party lawmakers argue that the current government lost its “legitimacy” on June 5, when the National Assembly shut out 29 parliamentarians who had switched parties following a pair of royalist and opposition mergers.

Because the Constitution requires at least 120 elected parliamentarians to sit in the National Assembly, the lawmakers’ expulsion delegitimised “the current Royal Government of Cambodia led by Prime Minister Hun Sen which is formed by the current mandate of the NA”, the lawmakers write.

They therefore ask “all Embassies, Diplomatic Missions, and Multilateral Donors” to “refrain from signing any agreement with the current Royal Government of Cambodia … until the new legitimate National Assembly is elected.”

The Australian embassy did not respond by press time as to whether it would consider the opposition’s request, while the European Commission said they had not received a letter from the opposition.

The US embassy declined to respond to questions, referring the Post to a statement from US Ambassador William E. Todd published over the weekend that said Cambodia had “much to lose, in terms of credibility and legitimacy of the political process” through actions like the lawmakers’ expulsion. The letter made no mention of a change in relationship with the Kingdom.    

While donors stayed mum, senior CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap called the former opposition lawmakers’ appeal a “national betrayal”.

Yeap reaffirmed that the CPP’s decision to expel the lawmakers had been legal and could not be criticised by the international community, which did not know Cambodian law.

He added that opposition lawmakers had lost their National Assembly rights because they had illegally combined to form the Cambodia National Rescue Party, which was not in the mandate of the current parliament.

Therefore, he concluded, “they do not have the right to make this appeal”.

Meanwhile, CNRP leaders held a press conference yesterday at which they stated that unless the National Election Committee and Royal Government offered more guarantees of a fair election, the CNRP might not participate.  

“The National Rescue Party wants to confirm that if there are fair elections, we would win over the present ruling party by 100 per cent,” said CNRP acting president Kem Sokha.

But, he added, his party feared the current presence of “ghost” voters on registration lists and excess printed ballots would enable voting fraud and, in combination with ruling party control over the media, allow the CPP to swing the election.       

NEC secretary general Tep Nytha responded that the NEC had a policy to keep all media neutral and had printed the extra ballots to allow for accidental damage.

He added that the current political climate was no worse than in the previous election.

CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann, however, disagreed, pointing to a series of incidents in which CNPR signboards were defaced and rallies interrupted.

So far, more than 100 CNRP signboards have been destroyed and 15 CNRP rallies seriously interrupted, said Sovann, adding that in one recent incident in Kampong Chhnang province, police had destroyed 10 CNRP signs.

Sovann said he believed the CPP had instigated these incidents because it feared the CNRP’s popularity.

“They seek every means to destroy the CNRP.  These moves are illegal acts, and it is clear that the elections are not free and fair,” he said. “It is the responsibility of the Ministry of Interior to investigate, find and arrest the perpetrators.”

On Wednesday, in fact, the Ministry of Interior spokesman Khieu Sopheak announced in a press release that the ministry was seeking to arrest currently unknown individuals for tearing down 16 CNRP signboards and defacing them with spray paint in Prey Veng and Svay Rieng provinces on Tuesday night.

The perpetrators had sprayed paint over Sam Rainsy’s and Kem Sokha’s faces as well as over the party’s rising sun logo, leaving the sign blank, Sopheak said in the statement.

“The Ministry of Interior considers the above move as systematic vulgar conduct aimed at compromising a good environment before the elections and serving the bad purpose of rejecting the results of the upcoming election,” he said.

Turning blame back on the CNRP, however, he continued that this undermining of the elections was “the same as the Cambodia National Rescue Party leaders, who said they will participate in the elections but will not recognise the results”.