US Secretary of State Colin Powell will use his meeting with Prime Minister Hun Sen today to raise the US government’s desire to see the July 27 general elections conducted in a free and fair manner and political parties given equal access to the media.
Speaking at a news conference Wednesday evening, Powell also hinted that US aid to Cambodia could resume after the elections.
“I will urge the government of Cambodia to do everything possible to ensure that the upcoming elections in Cambodia meet international standards, particularly when it comes to equal access to the media,” Powell told reporters. “The Cambodian people deserve a government with the legitimacy that free and fair elections will bring,” he said.
Though Cambodia’s commune elections in 2002 were deemed largely free because violence did not erupt on polling day, the election was judged far from fair given the ruling CPP’s domination of the broadcast media.
Powell said there may be “opportunities” for increased assistance based on the outcome of the election.
“I hope we do have the kind of election I have spoken about and I do hope that after that election there may be new opportunities to pursue dialogue and, potentially, other programs with Cambodia,” he said.
He added that the US is providing $8.5 million in assistance to the election process—through NGOs.
Opposition party leader Sam Rainsy said Wednesday that the election will not be free and fair.
“We know the election won’t be free and fair. But the point is we have to see how unfree and unfair the election will be,” said Sam Rainsy, who is scheduled to briefly meet with Powell today.
Funcinpec President Prince Norodom Ranariddh, who met with Powell on Wednesday, said he shared the US secretary of state’s hope for a credible election.
“I hope that the 2003 election will be held democratically, and a new government will be born,” Prince Ranariddh said.