Senior Diplomat Says US Still Backs Election Investigation

After meeting with government officials and opposition leaders, a senior U.S. diplomat said at a press conference Monday afternoon that Washington would continue to back a credible investigation into irregularities reported during July’s national election.

Scot Marciel, principal deputy assistant secretary in the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, told reporters at Phnom Penh’s Sunway Hotel that while the U.S. does not choose sides in international political disputes, it believes that an investigation into the election is in order.

“We did say and have said consistently after the election that we think, because there were allegations of irregularities, when that happens anywhere in the world, it is useful for there to be a credible and transparent investigation,” Mr. Marciel said.

“That would be our position pretty much anywhere in the world. I won’t speak for the CPP on how they feel about that,” he said.

Mr. Marciel said that the fate of resolutions in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives calling for cuts in U.S. military aid to Cambodia would depend on how the present political impasse is resolved.

“These resolutions, unless something has changed in the last few days, are [still] resolutions…. But I think, as always, this is an ongoing process here. So I think much will depend on how that process plays out,” he said.

The U.S. has been the most vocal international donor on the subject of an investigation since the July 28 ballot, in which the CPP officially won 68 National Assembly seats. The opposition CNRP won 55 seats, but claims that it would have won the election outright if not for a spate of alleged irregularities.

Council of Ministers spokes­man Phay Siphan said that Mr. Marciel’s recommendation was not in line with Cambodia’s legal code.

“That is the U.S.’ right [to call for an investigation], but Cam­bodia is a sovereign state—we have a law, we [are] just apply[ing] our local law,” he said, adding that he did not think the issue would hurt relations between Cambodia and the U.S.

“Both nations are fine together. This issue [an investigation into the election] is one issue among many issues, so this issue will not hurt [relations between] Cam­bodia and United States,” Mr. Siphan said.

Uch Borith, secretary of state at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who met with Mr. Marciel on Monday afternoon, told reporters after the meeting that the two discussed enhancing cooperation, adding that the U.S. diplomat’s meeting with CNRP President Sam Rainsy did not mean the U.S. supports the opposition.

“His [Mr. Marciel’s] presence to meet the opposition doesn’t mean he supports the opposition party,” Mr. Borith said as Mr. Marciel stood beside him.

Mr. Rainsy declined to comment on the content of his meeting with Mr. Marciel. CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann said that the U.S.’ calls for an investigation were much appreciated by the CNRP.

“It is a similar stance to the CNRP since the beginning, so we would like to thank the U.S. government,” he said.

“If the CPP doesn’t care about that [the position of the U.S.], I think the people of Cambodia care about that. The voters care about that. The CNRP cares about that,” he said.

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