In Cambodia, Mixed Opinions On Burma’s Historic Election

As Burma’s residents went to the polls for the first time in 20 years yesterday, a Cambodian government official said any judgment pass­ed on the election should be made by Burma’s citizens alone.

In the face of widespread international complaints that the election would be rigged and undemocratic, Council of Ministers spokes­man Phay Siphan said that it was not Cam­­bodia’s role to comment on an­other country’s internal affairs.

“Cambodia always supports neighboring countries’ elections where the will of the people is re­spected. No­body else can judge the election ex­cept for the Burmese people,” he said. “Demo­cracy is different from nation to na­tion. Cambodia, through our own experience, re­spects the will of the people in each country.”

Mr Siphan said the government hoped the “minority would re­spect the majority,” referring to those who voted in favor of small pro-democratic parties in­stead of the major military-back­ed parties, which were ex­pected to dominate yesterday’s poll.

Pavin Chachavalpongpun, lead researcher for political and strategic affairs at the Asean Studies Center, said in an e-mail that Cam­bodia and other Asean member nations were not in a position to point fingers at Burma over its demo­cratic processes. “Most Asean countries feel vulnerable when its comes to the issue of democratization. In looking around, not all Asean countries are truly democratic,” he said.

“You have a mixture of communist states, absolute monarchies, one-party states [and] semi-military regimes. This condition compels them to be less critical as they discuss the issue of democratization and human rights protection.”

SRP spokesman Yim Sovann said Burma’s election could not be considered free or fair and added that the restrictions placed on opposition parties had some parallels with his party’s experience in Cambodia.

“We do not support the result of this election. You can not have an election when the opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi was not allowed to participate,” he said, pointing out that his self-exiled party leader Sam Rainsy was also unable to participate in the political process because he faced a 12-year prison sentence upon his return to Cambodia.

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