By Zsombor Peter
The Cambodia Daily
October 30, 2012
The Australian Senate yesterday urged the Cambodian government to
run free and fair national elections next year without the “harassment
or intimidation” of opposition leader Sam Rainsy, who remains in
self-imposed exile avoiding an 11-year jail sentence.
The appeal comes only days after the European Parliament passed its
own resolution condemning what it called Mr. Rainsy’s “politically
motivated” sentence and urging the government to fix “major flaws” in
how it runs the country’s elections.
Both Australia and the European Union (E.U.) are major aid donors to Cambodia.
The resolution from the Australian Senate “calls on the Cambodian
government to hold free and fair elections in 2013 and to ensure that
opposition parties are able to participate fully in Cambodian politics
without physical or judicial harassment or intimidation, including
opposition leader Sam Rainsy, as recommended by the U.N. special
Surya Subedi, the U.N.’s special rapporteur on human rights to
Cambodia, in his latest report called for a political solution that
would allow Mr. Rainsy to “play a full role in Cambodian politics” and
recommended several other reforms to the election process.
Government officials have been taking an increasingly harsh view of
Mr. Subedi’s reports, however, and have repeatedly rejected calls to
let Mr. Rainsy return to Cambodia without arrest.
Mr. Rainsy, president of the eponymously named Sam Rainsy Party
(SRP), was first convicted in 2010 of destroying public property for
uprooting temporary border posts along Cambodia’s frontier with Vietnam
and later of disinformation for posting maps of the area online.
The SRP, the country’s largest opposition party, is threatening a
possible boycott of July’s national elections unless Mr. Rainsy is
allowed back to contest the poll and unless the government concedes to
reforms of an electoral process it accuses of favoring the ruling CPP.
On Friday, the European Parliament in Brussels passed a resolution
of its own noting that E.U. observers found Cambodia’s last national
elections in 2008 to have fallen short of international standards.
Mirroring Mr. Subedi’s language, it called on the government to work
with the opposition so that it could “play a full role in Cambodian
politics and in the forthcoming elections in order to provide
credibility to the electoral process.”