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Burma’s Election Should Be a Call to Cambodia: Opposition

Burma opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi (C) waves to the crowd as she leaves National League for Democracy (NLD) headquarters after addressing journalists and supporters in Yangon on April 2, 2012.

Cambodian opposition officials welcomed the elections in Burma over the weekend that gave 43 of 44 contested seats to the party of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, but they also said the voting demonstrates a need for change in Cambodia’s own political system.

Kem Sokha, leader of the Human Rights Party, said Cambodia must change its system, or “people today will turn toward uprisings for change.”

Burmese leaders faced international pressure to organize the election, he said. “In Cambodia, the ruling party has to show the international community that future elections are held in a free and fair manner.”

Despite the election, Burmese junta leaders remain squarely in power. The National League for Democracy, which is led by Suu Kyi, does not have enough seats to alter the constitution or change policy.

Nevertheless, opposition lawmaker Son Chhay said the election signaled unprecedented change in the country and was welcomed by the international community. It also signaled a willingness of Burmese leaders to progress.

“It’s chronic among our Cambodian leaders to not learn from our own history,” he said. “When they hold power, they think about how to personally centralize power and they forget their roles for the nation and the people. They think only of mutual destruction for personal power.”

Cheam Yiep, a lawmaker for the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, called it “normal” for smaller parties to criticize, but he added that the current government was working to “strengthen democracy” in Cambodia.

Cambodians go to the polls to elect local commune leaders in June and
will elect parliamentary representatives next year.