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Three nations ‘disappointed’ with elections

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People check their names on a voters list at a polling station in Phnom Penh on Sunday. The US, Australia and Canada all released statements expressing their disappointment in the Kingdom’s national elections. Manan VATSYAYANA/afp

Three nations ‘disappointed’ with elections

The United States, Australia and Canada have expressed their “profound disappointment” in the Cambodian national elections. The US said it will consider “additional steps”.

But the head of the National Election Committee (NEC) hit back, deeming such statements as analysis from those “wearing black-lensed glasses”.

The three Western governments on Sunday referred to the polls as undemocratic and held with “intimidation” at a time when the freedom of independent media and civil society was being restricted.

“We are profoundly disappointed in the government’s choice to disenfranchise millions of voters, who are rightly proud of their country’s development over the past 25 years."

“Genuine democracies tolerate opposing political views, foster competition through elections, and promote and protect the free exchange of ideas,” said a statement issued by the White House Office of the Press Secretary on Sunday.

“The United States will consider additional steps to respond to the elections and other recent setbacks to democracy and human rights in Cambodia, including a significant expansion of the visa restrictions, announced on December 6, 2017,” it added.

The Australian government said it was unhappy that the Cambodian people “have been unable to freely choose their representatives”.

“As a longstanding friend of Cambodia, Australia will continue to urge the Cambodian Government to take steps to allow free and open political debate without violence and intimidation,” it said.

Canada took a similar line as the three nations called for the release of jailed CNRP president Kem Sokha, for independent media and civil society to be able to operate freely and for the participation of all political parties in the democratic process.

NEC spokesperson Hang Puthea reacted to the government statements by saying the countries concerned had “rejected” the election since the beginning of the democratic process.

“The US released a statement [on Sunday] denouncing the [Cambodian] elections. In fact, they have rejected them from the start. So analysis without coming to observe the complete election process is like an analyst who wears black-lensed glasses – he must see everything in black,” Puthea said, calling the statements “politically motivated”.

Sok Eysan, the spokesperson for the Cambodian People’s Party, which is poised to announce a historic landslide victory, said the statements didn’t reflect the reality of Cambodia.

“It is strange because they did not send representatives to monitor the elections, but they still analysed the election. This means that they merely analysed from outside and indirectly, without basing it on the reality of Cambodia.

“When it is not based on the truth, no one believes them. And when no one believes them, it is not effective. Because they are politically biased, their analysis was not based on reality,” he reasoned.

Meanwhile, The Council of Ministers’ Press and Quick Reaction Unit on Sunday released a documentary produced after Sunday’s polls.

The 15-minute film said the elections were far different from those of 2013, which were held in a “gloomy and violent atmosphere due to the interference of foreign countries”.

It said those “foreigners” use “democracy and human rights as a shield and the opposition party and local and international NGOs as their pawns”.

The commentary continued that during the 2013 elections, the Cambodia National Rescue Party used “drug addicted and gangster youths who were trained to join the election campaign and were told to cause chaos and violence”.

Such activities, it said, were done with the intention of undermining the election results.

“The opposition implemented a colour revolution under a direct command from foreign embassies in Phnom Penh.

“But the colour revolution, successful in some countries in the Middle East, turned out to be bitterly defeated in Cambodian territory,” the commentary said.

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