Opposition leader Sam Rainsy made a routine trip to Washington last week, in an effort to bolster support from his US base ahead of elections in the near future.
However, with uprisings sweeping the Arab world, Sam Rainsy also used his visit to push US officials to revisit America’s relationship with Cambodia’s government.
Sam Rainsy, who remains in exile and faces 12 years in prison if he returns to Cambodia, met with US State Department officials, legislators and think tanks in Washington, urging them to pay close attention to Cambodia’s electoral process.
Opposition lawmakers say the ruling party is able to use its virtual monopoly on broadcast and print media to further its own political goals years ahead of elections, that the electoral process remains skewed for the ruling party, and that threats to opposition activists and other dissidents remain commonplace.
“If all four issues are not properly addressed, the upcoming elections are useless,” he told VOA Khmer in an interview. “There is no need to have election observers, because the result is already known now. This happens through fraud, faking names, eliminating voters, and cheating on voters list prepared by the ruling party. They have ensured their victory already.”
Sam Rainsy maintains that criminal charges against him are politically motivated and pursued by biased courts that will prevent him from leading his party in local elections in 2012 and national elections the following year.
Aside from election worries, Sam Rainsy said he also warned US officials of deep-seated human rights and economic issues that could lead to uprisings like those in the Middle East in recent weeks.
“Once the poor cannot benefit from development, and when the poor are getting poorer and poorer, there will be uprisings, as in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya,” he said. “Cambodia is the same.”
The US should rethink its policy of “stability,” he said, “and whether that stability comes should be in a democratic country or a dictatorial one.”
“We should not value stability under dictatorial rule because sooner or later there will be a burst of rage,” he said.