US Ambassador Calls for Election Investigation, NEC Reform

Repeating his country’s call for a transparent investigation into irregularities during the July 28 national election, the U.S. ambassador to Cambodia has urged the government to repair deficiencies in the electoral process.

While some foreign governments have issued congratulatory messages to Prime Minister Hun Sen and the CPP after they immediately declared victory, the U.S. has yet to do so.

The opposition CNRP has also claimed victory in the polls and has alleged massive fraud, calling for an independent investigation into the election.

The U.S. State Department last week also called for a “credible” investigation into allegations of irregularities.

In his weekly column, printed in the leading Rasmei Kampuchea newspaper and posted to its English-language sister website on Sunday, Ambassador William Todd said the elections, which even by the ruling CPP’s own preliminary results saw massive gains by the CNRP, “offer a unique and historic opportunity to bring about significant positive political reforms.”

Mr. Todd urged all parties to continue to act in a peaceful manner as the results of the election are confirmed.

“Unfortunately, there have been reports of voting irregularities that have led some to question the results,” Mr. Todd wrote.

“Therefore, the United States supports a full and transparent investigation of any reported irregularities. Also, to restore voter confidence in the electoral process moving forward, it is crucial to start making immediate reforms to correct deficiencies.”

Mr. Todd called on the government to enact election reforms that were suggested in July 2012 by Surya Subedi, the U.N. human rights envoy to Cambodia, but were largely ignored.

“A good starting point would be for the Royal Government to implement the important recommendations of the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Human Rights, such as correcting the voter registry and making the activities of the National Election Committee fully non-partisan and transparent.”

“All democracies must continually evolve and improve, and Cam­bodia is no different. While there are always ‘growing pains’ when making any improvements, Cambodia deserves nothing less than the freest and fairest elections possible,” the ambassador wrote.

He said he hoped lawmakers elected last month would “seize this moment in history to strengthen the rule of law and human rights, make laws in a fair and transparent manner, and govern in the best interests of the Cambodian people.”

Mr. Todd’s column came just days after Prime Minister Hun Sen lashed out at calls by advocacy groups and lawmakers in Washington for the U.S to withdraw aid and military assistance over claims the elections were not free and fair.

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said Mr. Hun Sen’s comments on Friday were not directed at the U.S. government, with which the Cambodian government has a positive relationship.

“We still have good relations and cooperation,” Mr. Siphan said.

“The prime minister only stated to a set of U.S. lawmakers and as well to NGOs. They use the aid to put pressure on Cambodia. It is not fair to Cambodia as a sovereign state,” he said.

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