A group of ASEAN parliamentarians has said excluding Cambodia’s former opposition party from July’s general election had damaged the legitimacy of the vote.
The MPs from the group Asean Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) said in a statement this week that the now-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party should be allowed to contest the vote and that all political prisoners in the country should be freed.
“The government’s latest moves to pressure and initimidate voters weaken its case that the upcoming election will be a true reflection of popular will,” said Charles Santiago, APHR chairman and a member of the Malaysian Parliament.
“The government is denying Cambodian citizens their basic rights to express their political views and participate in a democratic process without fare of reprisal. This toxic, threatening environment makes an already dubious election even less free,” he added.
Tom Villarin, a member of the Philippines congress, said pressure being applied by the Cambodian government in recent weeks against people who may be considering boycotting the election was undemocratic. “In such a situation, refusing to vote must be recognized as a legitimate right and a form of affirmative political choice to show disapproval of the electoral process.”
Some 20 minor political parties are due to contest the vote with the ruling Cambodian People’s Party of Prime Minister Hun Sen on July 29.
Hang Puthea, a spokesman for the National Election Committee (NEC), argued that the APHR was attempting to “interfere with Cambodia’s internal affairs”, adding that the government was not opposing people who would choose to boycott the vote, but rather people who were encouraging others to follow suit.
Sam Inn, secretary general of the Grassroots Democracy Party, said: “The election is not fully free and fair, but a road toward a solution is an electoral road to continuing the support of democracy in Cambodia. The stance of the Grassroots Democracy Party is to seek solutions.”
The APHR also noted the creation of a working group to monitor social media and other telecommunications that it believes could harm “national security” while last month a senior official said people on election day who did not have a mark to prove they voted would be classed as “insurgents and traitors”.