EU Calls for International Probe Into Election

In the strongest international reaction to the contested result of July’s national election yet, the European Parliament passed a resolution on Thursday calling on Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government to conduct an independent, internationally led investigation of the election and the killing of five garment factory protesters earlier this month.

The resolution by the parliament of the European Union (E.U.)—Cambodia’s single largest aid donor—comes after the U.S. House of Representatives passed a draft spending bill on Wednesday that would cut some aid to Cambodia unless similar demands regarding the flawed election are met.

Adopted by some 740 members of the European Parliament on Thursday, the resolution also urges the government to “recognize the legitimate role played by the political opposition in contributing to Cambodia’s overall economic and political development,” and to implement reforms in the judiciary as well as the electoral process, particularly the voter list and free access to media.

“The European Parliament calls on the Cambodian Government to accept an independent, internationally assisted investigation into allegations of vote fraud and other irregularities around the July 2013 elections,” states the resolution.

Legal action against CNRP President Sam Rainsy and Vice President Kem Sokha, as well as union leaders, who were questioned over their alleged role in the recent garment worker protests, should be dropped, the Parliament said.

Extending its condolences to the families of the protesting garment workers who were shot dead and wounded by military police on Pur Senchey district’s Veng Sreng Street, the European Parliament condemned “the disproportionate and excessive use of force by security forces.”

“The European Parliament urges the Cambodian authorities to thoroughly investigate and hold to account those responsible for deaths and injuries,” the resolution reads.

In a total of 17 points, the European Parliament also urged that the 23 people “unjustly arrested” during the strike protests be freed and that the government ban on freedom of assembly be “immediately revoked.”

Mu Sochua, opposition CNRP lawmaker-elect, welcomed the resolution on Friday. “[The resolution] recognizes that there is a problem. The resolution gets down to the root cause of the conflict that has become a crisis,” she said, adding that an independent investigation into the election results with international participation was key to ending the political deadlock.

“The truth about the elections has to be revealed as well as the people responsible for the killings. How many lives have to be wasted before we can exercise our freedom and our liberty?” she asked.

As about 50 percent of all shoes and garments produced in Cambodia are exported to the E.U., the resolution places economic pressure on Mr. Hun Sen’s government to comply with the Parliament’s demands for independent investigations.

Tep Nytha, secretary-general of the government’s National Election Committee (NEC), said the European Parliament was free to have its opinion regarding Cambodian politics and the conduct of the country’s elections, but all irregularities had already been “solved.”

“The NEC just implements its work based on the law, and the NEC solved the election complaints already,” Mr. Nytha maintained.

Reform of the electoral process or any investigations of the result of July’s vote could only be decided by the government, he added.

“If there is an amendment of any law, the NEC will respect the law.”

In seven separate motions for the resolution on Cambodia submitted by respective parties in the European Parliament on Tuesday, even harsher language was used to describe the situation in Cambodia.

The Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats said that the July 28 election was “neither free nor fair” as Mr. Hun Sen’s long-ruling CPP controlled “all election-related institutions, including the National Election Committee and Constitutional Council, both of which failed to seriously address all credible allegations of voter fraud and other election complaints.”

The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Group said it believed that the “Hun Sen Government, which is facing a serious problem of legitimacy, should either accept an independent investigation into the recent election irregularities and their impact on the election results, or organize new elections.”

Independent political analyst Kem Ley said that the recent actions by the U.S. and the E.U. resolution would play a significant role in finding a solution to the current political situation.

“That the international community stands united and puts pressure on the government is very important to make a change, because the voices of the victims are always ignored, but the international community gives a lot of aid and that’s very important for the government,” Mr. Ley said.

(Additional reporting by Khy Sovuthy)

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