As the much-anticipated general election approaches, Prime Minister Hun Sen is extending a “warm welcome” to 333 delegates from 65 countries and international institutions.
Hun Sen said they have journeyed from various corners of the globe to Cambodia to observe the July 23 election, and that this show of international interest is unprecedented in the nation’s history.
Using the immediacy of social media to convey his message, the premier took to Twitter to express his enthusiasm.
“I would like to thank His Excellency the speaker of the House of Representatives of Malaysia and the Prime Minister of the Republic of Guinea-Bissau for their direct observation,” he tweeted, emphasising that this year’s election has attracted the largest foreign observer contingent ever.
The scale of participation outstrips that of any of the previous six elections, reflecting the growing global interest in the Kingdom’s democratic process, he added.
Hun Sen also extended thanks to 11 other former heads of state, heads of government, former presidents, and vice-presidents of parliament for their participation, saying their decision to travel to Cambodia underscores the significance of this democratic event on the global stage.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation added further details about this international collaboration, highlighting the direct involvement of Malaysian House speaker Johari Abdul and Guinea-Bissau Prime Minister Nuno Gomes Nabiam.
“[Nabiam] will have the opportunity to witness the Kingdom’s general election first-hand, scheduled for July 23, 2023, and exchange electoral experiences,” it said.
Nabiam’s visit to Cambodia is not confined to observation alone. The ministry said he will hold talks with Prime Minister Hun Sen.
The two leaders will engage in dialogue over various bilateral topics, seeking to find common ground and shared understandings. Together, they hope to map out a path that enhances mutually beneficial cooperation and addresses international issues of shared interest and concern.
Such bilateral engagement has far-reaching implications, the ministry said, noting that Nabiam’s inaugural visit to Cambodia signifies a significant milestone in fostering amicable relations between the two nations.
The ministry expressed its confidence that this visit would strengthen the bonds of friendship and cooperation for the benefit of the two peoples.
“[Nabiam’s] maiden working visit to Cambodia will mark a significant milestone in the amicable relations between both countries and contribute to strengthening the bonds of good friendship and cooperation in the interests of the two peoples,” it said.
Echoing this sentiment, Yang Peou, secretary-general of the Royal Academy of Cambodia, expressed his views on the diplomatic landscape.
Nabiam’s visit, he said, serves the strategic goal of broadening diplomatic ties between the two countries. He pointed out that such engagements align perfectly with Cambodia’s foreign policy of maintaining established friendships and building new ones.
However, Peou noted a particularly interesting aspect of this foreign policy strategy. The timing of Nabiam’s visit coinciding with the election and his monitoring of the process could potentially boost the election’s momentum. As Cambodia opens its doors to international observers, it invites the world to participate in its democratic process.
The presence of over 300 international observers, according to Peou, could likely enhance the election’s legitimacy, smoothness and fairness.
He welcomed this international engagement, saying: “Cambodia opening its doors for monitors to better understand our electoral process is beneficial. We don’t need to explain to the international community ourselves.”
In a recent interview with Chinese state-owned Phoenix TV, Hun Sen brushed off external criticism of Cambodia’s electoral situation.
His focus remains on Cambodian voters casting their ballots in accordance with the country’s Constitution. Asserting the nation’s political maturity and democratic spirit, he emphasised the peaceful nature of the election lead-up.
“In an independent and sovereign country, we only need our people to accept our election, that is enough,” he added.
Meanwhile, three major political parties contesting the election – the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), FUNCINPEC and Khmer National United Party (KNUP) – are gearing up for the last day of their campaigns, July 21.
With more than 30,000 participants expected across all three parties, the Phnom Penh municipal authorities are prepared to host their large gatherings, cautioning the public to be mindful of traffic, especially near the campaign locations.