Cambodia

Obama Could Push for Fair Elections in November Visit, Opposition Says

His visit comes with a new “pivot” to Asia policy, which has seen greater US engagement in the region.

US President Barack Obama speaks at his last campaign rally in Des Moines, Iowa, on November 5, 2012.US President Barack Obama speaks at his last campaign rally in Des Moines, Iowa, on November 5, 2012.
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US President Barack Obama speaks at his last campaign rally in Des Moines, Iowa, on November 5, 2012.
US President Barack Obama speaks at his last campaign rally in Des Moines, Iowa, on November 5, 2012.
VOA Khmer
WASHINGTON DC- No matter who wins Tuesday’s election in the US, the current president, Barack Obama, will make a scheduled visit to Cambodia later this month to attend meetings with Asian leaders.

Sam Rainsy, the head of the new Cambodia National Rescue Party, says the US president could use his visit to push for free and fair elections in Cambodia next year.

That would put him alongside other international supporters for an improved election in July 2013, such as the UN, European parliamentarians, Australia and the Philippines, he told VOA Khmer.

The UN’s special rights envoy to Cambodia, Surya Subedi, has made specific recommendations on how Cambodia can better its election process, including by allowing the full participation of Sam Rainsy.

“I believe that President Barack Obama will support the UN,” said Sam Rainsy, who is in exile and faces 12 years in prison on charges he says are politically motivated.

Obama is scheduled to be in Cambodia Nov. 18 to Nov. 20, attending meetings in the East Asia Summit, which will be held along with a major Asean summit, chaired by Cambodia. His visit comes with a new “pivot” to Asia policy, which has seen greater US engagement in the region.

US Embassy spokesman Sean McIntosh said US participation in the meetings is to “promote peace, prosperity and stability in the region.”

But the US has also started to take a closer look at Cambodia itself.

Kurt Campbell, the top US diplomat for East Asia, told the Associated Press last week that the US is concerned with measures the government has taken against dissent, including opposition officials, civic organizations and individuals.

But whether that concern will play out during Obama’s visit is an open question.

Kao Kim Hourn, a secretary of state for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told VOA Khmer talks will not include human rights and democracy. “There should not be misunderstanding or confusion,” he said.

However, Sam Rainsy said it is now time for more international involvement in Cambodia’s troubles.

“Now the whole world is paying attention to Cambodia, to demand true democracy,” he said.

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