Cambodia’s government is continuing to feel the fallout from its decision to amend the political parties law ahead of elections in June and next year.
A statement released by the Canadian Embassy last week voiced that country’s concern over the amendments, which have been roundly condemned by critics.
The changes give the Interior Ministry and Supreme Court the power to penalize parties that employ people with criminal convictions in senior positions, as well as those that receive funding from abroad.
The move comes amid numerous court actions against members of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, which are widely believed to be politically motivated.
"For democracies to thrive, political parties must be free to campaign without fear and must be able to reach voters with their vision and ideas," Donica Pottie, Canada’s ambassador, said in the statement.
"These amendments equate to a rolling back of democracy in Cambodia. Canada calls on the Government of Cambodia to ensure free, open and transparent elections in 2017 and 2018," she added.
Sok Eysan, ruling Cambodian People’s Party spokesman, said the changes would help Cambodia improve its democracy.
“I think that after this law comes out, it will not cause a rolling back of democracy or make democracy die as some people have said. This would mean that democracy will move forward,” he said.
“It will continue to be alive. Let’s keep track of whether democracy will be dead in the next few years or see if democracy will prosper in the next dozens of years,” he added.
Prior to Canada’s statement, the United States said the amendments could “constitute a significant setback for Cambodia’s political development and would seriously call into question the legitimacy of the upcoming elections.”
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs responded by saying it was “deeply disappointed” by the U.S. reaction.