French Ambassador Leaves Cambodia After 3 Years

When Yvon Roe D’Albert arrived in Cambodia in November 2003, the whole government decision-making process had been put on hold following the July 2003 national elections, meaning he could not officially serve as the new French ambassador. It would be months before Funcinpec would agree to form a coalition with the CPP, allowing the National Assembly to reconvene and start the government’s legal machinery.

Beside the fact that Cambodia had no working government, one other major issue concerned France at the time, Roe D’Albert said. Then-King Norodom Sihanouk had just celebrated his 81st birthday, and the succession to the throne—an issue with the potential to profoundly affect the country—was still to be addressed, he said. “But due to the will of parties involved to find a peaceful solution, this was resolved in a satisfactory man­ner” with King Norodom Si­ha­mo­ni’s 2004 coronation, Roe D’Al­bert recalled in a recent interview.

After more than three years as French ambassador, Roe D’Albert flew out of the country Saturday. As he was preparing to leave for his next post as ambassador to Ireland, he dealt with another sensitive issue. On his departure visit to Cabinet Minister Sok An on Friday, the Khmer Rouge tribunal came up, a French Embassy spokesman said.

Roe D’Albert told Sok An that, at this point in the process, “all parties involved in the tribunal have weigh­ed its importance and cannot afford to have the tribunal fail,” the spokes­man said Sunday.

Looking back on his time in Cam­bo­dia, Roe D’Albert pointed out what he called inroads to democracy, such as the National Assembly last year reducing the amount of law­ma­kers required to form a government and reach quorum at sessions of parliament from two-thirds to a sim­ple majority of 50 percent plus one.

In 1993, he said, “the fact that the country was emerging from a serious domestic crisis made it important to ensure that a very large ma­jo­rity of the political forces were be­hind the government. But the de­mocratic game is usually accompanied by a simple majority [in parliament].” In Cambodia, this may lead to the establishment of a true po­litical opposition, Roe D’Albert said.

He declined to comment on the results of the commune elections in April, but said: “What I notice is that the elections process follows a normal course, and that is how democracy takes roots. Of course, one can improve the system from one election to the next.”

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