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US withdraws election funding following CNRP dissolution

A member of the public casts her vote under the supervision of an attendant inside Sothearos High School during the 2013 national elections.
A member of the public casts her vote under the supervision of an attendant inside Sothearos High School during the 2013 national elections. Hong Menea

US withdraws election funding following CNRP dissolution

In response to yesterday’s Supreme Court decision to dissolve the main opposition party, the United States government has announced that it will discontinue American funding for the upcoming national elections.

In a statement from Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders yesterday evening, the White House said the Cambodia National Rescue Party’s dissolution was “based on meritless and politicized allegations that it participated in a conspiracy to overthrow the government”.

“It is becoming increasingly evident to the world that the Cambodian government’s restrictions on civil society, suppression of the press, and banning of more than 100 opposition leaders from political activities have significantly set back Cambodia’s democratic development and placed its economic growth and international standing at risk,” she said.

Yesterday’s ruling immediately dissolves the main opposition party – which won more than 44 percent of the popular vote in the 2013 national elections – and bars 118 opposition officials from participating in politics for five years. The government has based its allegations against the party in part on purported American involvement in supporting the CNRP in an alleged attempt to overthrow the government.

Huckabee Sanders pledged “concrete steps” in response – first by pulling funding for the National Election Committee. In April, USAID announced a two-year $1.8 million grant for the NEC. “On current course next year’s election will not be legitimate, free, or fair,” she said, before calling on the government to “undo” its decision to bar the party, to release jailed CNRP leader Kem Sokha, and to allow political parties, civil society and the media to “maintain their legitimate activities”.

Sor Sorida, deputy secretary-general of the NEC, said the election body would still proceed with preparations as planned. “It is their rights to cut their fund,” he said. “When cutting the fund, it could make it difficult for the election process but the NEC still upholds its stance to hold the election in a way that is free and fair complying with NEC’s principles.”

Meanwhile, the European Union also issued a statement criticising the government's actions since the June commune elections, and linked human rights with access to the European bloc’s reduced and zero tariff trade scheme.

“A situation in which all parties, including the CNRP, their leaders and their supporters are able to carry out freely their legitimate functions, must be swiftly restored,” it reads. “Respect of fundamental human rights is a prerequisite for Cambodia to continue to benefit from the EU's preferential Everything But Arms scheme.”

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