Government Accuses EU of Interference Over Election Remark

The government reacted angrily yesterday to a statement from the European Union (E.U.) recommending that the National Election Committee (NEC) take steps to ensure next month’s national election is free and fair.

The Foreign Ministry issued its irate missive rejecting the E.U.’s carefully worded statement, saying that Prime Minister Hun Sen had already laid down the foundations for an equal election come July 28. 

The E.U.—which sent observers to the 2008 national election and subsequently issued recommendations to the government and the NEC—said it was important that “outstanding recommendations” from that mission be implemented, noting that a “transparent and credible election is a major opportunity to consolidate democracy and secure Cambodia’s future development.”

“Among others, these include, as now required by law in Cambodia, the need to provide equitable media access and to prevent the use of State resources in the campaign,” the E.U. statement says, also recognizing that positive steps had been taken since 2008. “It is in the interest of all Cambodian citizens that the electoral campaign promotes a constructive democratic debate focused on policy issues that matter. In this respect, the EU hopes that political parties will refrain from using threatening and inflammatory rhetoric, and will enter from now on into an open discussion of visions for the future of the country.”

Taking exception to the statement, the Foreign Ministry accused the E.U. of interfering with Cambodia’s sovereignty, adding that Mr. Hun Sen had repeatedly stated the government’s commitment to “a free, fair, transparent and democratic elections as held previously.”

The government, it said, “cannot accept and rejects the above [E.U.] Delegation’s Statement as a sovereign and independent State.” The statement also de­mands the E.U. delegation, which is not send­ing observers to the election, respect the 1961 Vienna Con­vention on Diplomatic Relations, which says foreign nations have a “duty not to interfere in the internal affairs of [a] State.”

A statement from a coalition of 11 NGOs, including the Commit­tee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia and the Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia, also voiced concerns yesterday over the current political environment.

“[P]olitical threats, intimidation and disruption have occurred continuously both at grassroots and national level,” the statement says. “To ensure that the coming fifth mandate national election is free and fair, civil society organizations call for government, local and provincial authorities, and the armed forces to play a neutral role and to build an environment of fear-free expression prior to the elections and to ensure a level playing field for all participants.”

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