Cambodia's National Election Committee promises to keep neutral in face of China, Russia aid.
A close up picture shows a Cambodian flag waving in the wind in Phnom Penh. (Photo: AFP / TANG CHHIN SOT)
By Ouch Sony
31 Dec 2017 01:36PM
(Updated: 31 Dec 2017 02:07PM)
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PHNOM PENH: Cambodia's National Election Committee (NEC) have promised voters that it will fulfil its duty based on the law and keep its neutrality after China pledged to donate equipment for the 2018 general election.
The EU and US suspended their funding for Cambodia's 2018 general election in November and December respectively, saying that the vote cannot be credible after the government dissolved the main opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) and banned 118 of its officials from politics for five years.
According to the NEC's statement posted on its website on Wednesday (Dec 27), China will donate 30 different types of equipment, including computers, printers, digital cameras, ballot boxes and polling booths. The aim of this donation is to ensure that the next elections “run smoothly, fairly, transparently, and with accountability", the statement said.
NEC spokesman Hang Puthea said the equipment will arrive in January and that this donation was a positive response from China after the US and EU suspended their funding.
He added Russia could be the next country to fund the upcoming election process while Japan announced in October to keep providing funding for NEC.
“Don't worry at all. When NEC accepted the donation, NEC already inspected and considered all the conditions,” Puthea said.
“First, NEC will fulfil its duty based on the law. Second, we guarantee good technical quality. Any donation that could make NEC lose its neutrality, NEC will not accept."
Puthea said this was not the first time that China had donated to NEC and that it previously also donated equipment worth about $13 million. He said NEC will use the equipment to serve the benefit of people in this election, and more than $50 million will be spent for the Senate election and the general election.
“China's donation is a donation without conditions,” Hang Puthea said. “This donation will ease the government's burden.”
He added that even if NEC did not accept this donation, the government would still have enough funds to operate the election process.
A POLITICAL MATTER?
Political analysts Lao Mong Hay, however, said he did not believe China will help Cambodia to have a free and fair election because it is not a democratic country itself, and does not have skill in conducting a free and fair election based on a multi-party democracy.
Mong Hay stressed that the close down of many media outlets and NGOs, a crackdown on freedom of expression and the dissolution of CNRP as reasons that this election will not be free and fair.
He added that unlike the EU and US, China was not requiring that the Cambodian government follow the principles of democracy and human rights.
The political analyst warned that relying on China alone will put Cambodia under the influence from China and undermine its independence and sovereignty.
“It will affect the commercial relations (between the two countries) and we need their markets and also need aid,” Mong Hay said. “They will use this as a tool to serve their overseas policy.”
Government spokesman Phay Siphan, however, refuted this. Cambodia maintains relationships with many countries and will accept aid no matter which country it comes from, he stated.
“I believe that this aid will help push the ability and capacity of the NEC. It is not a political matter. It will help strengthening the election to be free and fair according to the law,” Siphan said.
Siphan also said the EU only considered its own benefit and never gave value to Cambodia's right to make decisions. The suspension of EU's aid was just a way of showing its political influence over Cambodia, according to him.
LEGITIMACY AND RECOGNITION
Prime Minister HE has repeatedly stated that Cambodia does not need any foreign nation to legitimise its elections, saying that it is sufficient that Cambodians recognise them. The prime minister has also said that Cambodia will be able to provide the funding for NEC to organize the ballots.
Korn Savang, monitoring coordinator for the Committee for Free and Fair Elections (Comfrel), declined to evaluate how free and fair the upcoming election will be.
However, he said that for the election to be acceptable and recognised by the international and national communities, it needs to have the participation from people and political parties based on democratic principles and full freedom of media outlets without intimidation.
“We want to see the participation in line with the democratic principle," he said.
Savang said the presence of China and Russia is not enough and he worried when the US and EU withdrew from the elections.
The legitimacy and image of Cambodia if the international community does not recognise the election is also important, Savang said.
Savang said that so far, Comfrel has not made any decision whether to participate or not in the upcoming election and will keep monitoring. There will be more discussion before it makes a final decision, he added.
However, Sok Eysan from the ruling Cambodia People's Party said Cambodia welcomed all aid from the West and Communist countries. He said Cambodia never rejected aid from the US and EU, but they had withdrawn by themselves.
“Now, US and EU have withdrawn but China and Russia are helping us and because we are poor, we have to welcome them. We have no discrimination,” Sok Eysan said.
Sok Eysan also said Cambodia followed the UN and ASEAN's charters and did not interfere in internal affairs of any members of these blocs.
“We don't welcome any country that interferes with Cambodia's internal affairs,” Sok Eysan added.
“If you recognised (the election), we welcome it and if you do not recognise it, we also won't force you.”
Read more at https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/as ... al-9822882
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