EXILED former opposition leader Sam Rainsy has called on all “fellow compatriots who believe in democracy” to boycott the upcoming Cambodian general election if the leading opposition party is not allowed to participate.
Speaking to radio channel Radio Free Asia on Sunday, the former leader of the Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) also asked national and international monitoring bodies to “refrain from ‘observing’ an electoral farce with a forgone conclusion.”
The party had not previously called for a boycott and it was not immediately clear if he was speaking on behalf of the party.
Rainsy currently lives in France where he fled in 2015 to avoid several criminal convictions against him that he claims are politically motivated.
The CNRP was dissolved and its lawmakers banned from politics in November after the Supreme Court ruled that it had tried to overthrow the government – something the CNRP has denied. The move essentially removed the country’s only credible opposition party and turned the July 29 election into a one-horse race in favour of the ruling party.
Prior to the dissolution, current CNRP leader Kem Sokha was arrested on charges of treason. Kem strongly denies the charges and remains in jail awaiting trial.
The ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) appeared untroubled by Rainsy’s proclamation, saying his statement would have no impact.
“The CNRP is already dead by the Supreme Court’s decision,” party spokesman Sok Eysan told Reuters. “Even if Sam Rainsy appeals until he dies, people no longer believe him.”
“It would be a disservice to render to the nation and to democracy to participate in a meaningless election that is only intended to legitimize and to perpetuate a dictatorship” – @RainsySam #Cambodia https://t.co/VfHNJLi5A9
— Rupert Abbott (@RupertBAbbott) April 9, 2018
The ban on the CNRP and Prime Minister Hun Sen’s crackdown on critics and freedom of speech in the lead up to the election has prompted a number of western countries to cut off aid and impose visa bans on some CPP members. Japan, Russia, South Korea and China, however, remain staunch allies.
Despite Japan’s foreign minister Taro Kono calling for free and fair elections during talks with Hun Sen, Japan signed a grant and loan agreement with Cambodia on Sunday totalling over US$90 million.
After the signing, Hun Sen lashed out at critics while praising Japan’s support.
“While Japan, a friend, is providing assistance to Cambodia,” he said on his Facebook page. “Some bad people can poison the news as bad as they did.”