Speaking to the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on Friday, Hun Sen defended July’s national elections and hit out at criticism from certain unnamed countries, calling them a “serious insult” to the will of the Cambodian people that showed “the ambition to interfere” in the Kingdom’s internal affairs.
Many Western democracies condemned the July 29 polls as “flawed”, with the US notably calling them “neither free nor fair”, while opposition leader Sam Rainsy on Saturday urged the international community to not recognise their results.
Hun Sen’s official visit to the UN brought with it minor protests in New York, with opposition leader Sam Rainsy calling for the rallies to continue, while he urged the international community not to recognise Cambodia’s new government.
The prime minister told the UNGA in New York that the 2018 national elections were “free and without coercion, threats or violence”.
He said Cambodians “are reaping the dividends of peace, stability and rapid development” in a way never seen before in the Kingdom’s modern history.
“The free choice of the Cambodian people and the legitimate election results are not subject to question or debate,” he said.
He said that nearly seven million Cambodians voted – equal to 83 per cent of those eligible and consequently negative assessments from foreign countries were a “serious insult” to the will of the Cambodian people.
“Some external circles, however, who have fed on the ambition to interfere in the domestic affairs of Cambodia, still fail to see the quality and integrity of our election process by issuing statements against it or attacking the outcome. Such action is a serious insult to the will of Cambodian people,” Hun Sen stressed.
He went on to draw the attention of all UN members to the “vitality of the UN charter”. He said it depended on all concerned to give proper respect to the document and “avoid interfering, damaging or disrupting the sovereignty of an independent state”.
“I regret to highlight the fact that human rights nowadays have been [used as an excuse] by some powerful nations . . . to interfere under the name of political rights protection,” he said.
Hun Sen said unilateral sanctions have become “a popular weapon” in the foreign policy of a powerful nation, seemingly referring to the US, which has passed legislation to place sanctions on high ranking government officials.
“We are deeply concerned by the tensions made by a first world superpower in diplomatic circles and by the conflicts in many parts of the world, thanks to interference by this superpower,” he said.
Rainsy, who did not lead protesters in a rally in New York against Hun Sen and his government as announced early last week, citing “work commitments”, posted a video directly calling for his supporters to keep protesting near the headquarters of the UN to show their opposition to Hun Sen’s visit.
The president of the Cambodia National Rescue Movement, who is currently attending a meeting of global liberal parties in South Africa, said on Saturday: “We are Cambodians. We love our nation. We love democracy.
“We will not recognise fake elections organised by an illegitimate government which destroyed the country – a treasonous government led by Hun Sen,” he claimed.
Rainsy brought up a report delivered at the 39th Session of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva, Switzerland, last Wednesday, in which Special Rapporteur for Cambodia Rhona Smith called into question the “genuineness” of the July 29 national elections in which Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party won all 125 seats in parliament.
“[Cambodia] is, therefore, a de facto single-party state,” Smith told the council. “The multiparty liberal democracy envisaged by the Constitution is consigned to history for the next five years, the duration of the current parliament.”
Smith visited Cambodia in mid-March and met with National Assembly president Heng Samrin.
The human rights envoy also met the chair of the National Election Committee Sik Bun Hok.
Rainsy said: “I supported the UN position of sending Special Rapporteur Rhona Smith to observe the state of human rights in Cambodia before the elections.
“The UN has maintained its position. The [July 29 national] elections were held without the participation of the CNRP. Therefore, they are illegitimate.”