AHEAD of its national elections on July 29, Cambodia’s government has been told it should reinstate the opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) and release detained politicians so that they can participate in the ballot.
The United Nations Human Rights Council’s independent expert on human rights in Cambodia, Rhona Smith, issued a statement this week in which she said that: “no election can be genuine if the main opposition party is barred from taking part.”
Prime Minister Hun Sen has ruled Cambodia for more than three decades and over the past year has intensified crackdowns against political opposition, independent media and civil society groups – including outlawing the CNRP, the Kingdom’s only viable opposition party.
A two-week period of registering political parties for the poll began on Monday.
“Those who currently rule the country have one final opportunity to reverse the current trajectory, and return instead to the constitutional path of multi-party democracy and genuine elections – ensuring a level playing field for all political parties,” said Smith.
A February election for the Cambodian Senate saw the ruling Cambodia People’s Party (CPP) win all 58 seats in the upper house after it barred thousands of opposition figures from voting.
Asean Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) last month reiterated their call to reconvene a conference on the 1991 Paris Peace Agreement which ended the nation’s 12 year civil war and instilled “a system of liberal democracy on the basis of pluralism.” On Monday, the PM said APHR was a “gangster group”, according to the Phnom Penh Post.
Last month, exiled former CNRP leader Sam Rainsy called for a boycott of the July vote, also requesting that national and international monitoring bodies “refrain from ‘observing’ an electoral farce with a forgone conclusion.”
In March, 45 nations – including United States, Germany, Australia and United Kingdom – publicly called upon Cambodia to reinstate the CNRP, release former opposition leader Kem Sokha and hold free and fair elections. Hun Sen has said he will ignore these requests.
“All Cambodians have a right to openly debate and discuss political affairs; the media must be allowed to scrutinise and criticise, as well as inform the public; and civilsociety, including NGOs, should be encouraged to play an active role in State affairs,” added Smith.
“A liberal multi-party democracy is an essential, entrenched and non-amendable feature of the Constitution of Cambodia.”
Japan last month granted $90 million worth of aid to the Southeast Asian state, despite some Western governments cutting aid and imposing visa restrictions on certain CPP members. Cambodian authorities have said they will deploy some 100,000 security forces to polling stations during the election.