The Japanese delegation to the United Nations (UN) expressed concern for the current political situation in Cambodia and urged all stakeholders to promote dialogue. The delegation’s remarks were read out at the UN’s 38th session on Human Rights on Thursday.
Mitsuko Shino, speaking for the Permanent Mission of Japan to the UN, said: “In order to resolve this issue, Japan believes it is important for all stakeholders, including the ruling party as well as the opposition, to promote dialogue among the Cambodian people.
“The government of Japan, therefore, requests that all sides do their utmost to resolve the current situation. There is not much time left until the national elections scheduled for the end of this month."
“We call for a further effort by the Cambodian government and other stakeholders to ensure that the national election will be carried out in the proper manner that reflects the will of Cambodia’s citizens.”
Last year, Cambodia shut down about 30 radio stations, most of which rented airtime to US-based Radio Free Asia, and Voice of America.
The independent English-language Cambodia Daily also ceased operations due to unpaid taxes while the main opposition party – the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) – was dissolved by the Supreme Court.
Its leader, Kem Sokha, was arrested on treason charges and 118 of its members have been barred from taking part in politics for five years.
Nevertheless, the Japanese delegation said it would continue providing assistance to Cambodia, and Shino said Japan is helping to strengthen the rule of law in the Kingdom by assisting its legal system and donating to the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia.
“We will continue to actively contribute to the protection and promotion of human rights in Cambodia,” she said.
Ney Sam Ol, Cambodia’s permanent representative to the UN office, defended the Supreme Court’s decision to dissolve the CNRP and noted that the decision cannot be appealed. “The government and ruling party have no role to play in that decision,” he said.
Sam Ol continued that recent criticism of Cambodia has followed a familiar script.
“It is no surprise that this prejudice [against Cambodia] has become a customary political practice and bargaining tactic of opposition parties and their cohorts,” he said, stressing that the previous election was deemed free and fair by international observers.
He also called on the international community to provide support and assistance to the Cambodian National Election Committee (NEC).
Mu Sochua, deputy president of the now non-existent CNRP, said on Sunday that the Japanese government needed to pull its support for the election process and procedures.
She claimed the elections scheduled for July 29, cannot be seen as democratic if half its people are ignored.
“Cambodia cannot be held hostage because the ruling party makes no concessions. It just bends rules and regulations, going as far as amending and violating the constitution to remain in power,” she said.
Cheam Channy, another former opposition party lawmaker, said Japan has been soft with Cambodia, but expressed hope that at the last minute, it will withdraw support for the NEC.
“Urging a dialogue is a good thing and we hope Japan will show a clear stance at the last minute toward this election. Japan doesn’t want to withdraw … They want to lead both sides to meet. So, it is a good position that Japan urges Cambodia to enter into dialogue,” Channy said.
He said if the current situation continues, he feared that the US and EU will act against Cambodia, “and this will affect millions of people”.
Meanwhile, a European Commission delegation was reportedly in Cambodia on a seven-day mission to access if the Kingdom had fulfilled its duties enshrined in the Everything But Arms (EBA) trade arrangement. EBA grants developing countries duty-free access to European markets for many products.
Neither the EU delegation to Cambodia nor Chum Sonry, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman could be reached for comment on Sunday.