China on Wednesday donated 27 jeeps to the National Election Committee, with the intention of improving transportation for election staff in the provinces.
Kassie Neou, the NEC vice president, presided over the ceremony at the committee’s headquarters. A lack of vehicles is a key problem for the NEC.
The donation of the jeeps follows a plea by the NEC for up to $5 million in aid, although the Chinese donation is unrelated, NEC members said.
The military-style vehicles are worth $250,000, the NEC said.
Kassie Neou said the election board is still short of international election observers and funding, though the Finance Ministry transferred funds earlier this week enabling the body to pay its staff, though several days late.
China also sent election observers and in December donated army trucks and jeeps in what is seen as a thawing of relations between Beijing and Phnom Penh.
China was in the ’80s a major backer of the Khmer Rouge, the strongest of guerrilla force opposing the People’s Revolutionary Party of Kampuchea, the forerunner of the CPP. Chinese outreach here has been seen as a counterbalance to Asean’s influence.
“I think it’s somehow a funny thing that the Chinese are contributing to the election process,” a Western diplomat said. “It’s just a sign of the growing influence of China” in Phnom Penh.
(Additional reporting by Marc Levy)