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China Urges Rapid Formation of New Cambodian Government

Foreign minister of Cambodia Hor Namhong and China's foreign minister Wang Yi at press conference, August 21, 2013.
Foreign minister of Cambodia Hor Namhong and China's foreign minister Wang Yi at press conference, August 21, 2013.
China’s foreign minister on Wednesday urged Cambodia to solve its ongoing political deadlock and to quickly form a new government, while firmly supporting Cambodia’s current ruling government.

Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who was on a bilateral visit to the country, made his remarks following meetings with his counterpart, Hor Namhong, and Prime Minister Hun Sen, amid a political crisis following last month’s national elections.

The Chinese news agency Xinhua reported that Wang congratulated Hun Sen on an election victory for his Cambodian People’s Party, despite ongoing protest by the opposition, which has rejected preliminary results showing a CPP win. Reporters were not allowed questions during the briefing.

“China is a good friend and good partner of Cambodia,” Wang said through an interpreter. “We hope that all parties of Cambodia will discuss peacefully in order to put in place quickly a new National Assembly and new government.”

The opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party says last month’s election voting was deeply flawed and marred by irregularities. This has set up the prospect of a political deadlock, with the opposition threatening to boycott the formation of the National Assembly, thereby preventing the formation of a new government, and calling for mass demonstrations if a proper investigation is not held.

The Rescue Party has demanded that an investigation would be overseen by the UN or other outside observer, a demand the CPP has rejected. Both sides on Tuesday agreed to form an investigative committee.

Wang told reporters Wednesday that China continues to support Cambodia but does not condone “outside” interference in its political process.

Independent analyst Lao Monghay said Wang’s visit would likely help the ruling party and the government, which has had less support from the West following the election.

“It’s strengthening the confidence of the Cambodian People’s Party, while there are few governments and foreign parties recognizing the election as free and fair,” he said.

Cambodia’s election, which saw a surprising resurgence for the opposition, echoes the movements of the Arab Spring, he said, making it of interest to the West and the US, Lao Monghay said. “It can extensively spread to Vietnam, Laos, and China, and so on,” he said. “This is only a matter of time.”

Sok Touch, rector of Khemarak University, said China does not want to lose influence over Cambodia, especially with Burma making democratic reforms and looking toward the West.

“So China has nowhere to stand but in Cambodia,” he said. “China will lose Cambodia in the future when another party holds party. Then there will be a weaker relationship between China and Cambodia.”

Wang’s statement of support seemed to be a signal that China wants a continued relationship with the current Cambodian government, he said.

Ou Virak, president of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, said China’s statement of support Wednesday was not likely to have much impact on the current problem.

“First, the opposition party does not trust China, and second, the Cambodian people do not value China very much today,” Ou Virak said. “China seem not to have much impact over Cambodia’s political situation today.”

Meanwhile, observers and political analysts say they are encouraged by fresh talks by both parties to move past the post-election deadlock.

Hang Puthea, head of the independent election watchdog Nicfec, said the two sides should both soften their stances and move toward resolving their differences.

“The effort to negotiate by both parties is a key element to opening the way towards a negotiation that will achieve a result,” he said.

Koul Panha, who oversees the election-monitoring group Comfrel, said the meetings between the two sides could help them work through technical issues and find an overall solution.

Ou Virak, head of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, said the National Election Committee has now moved responsibility for the investigation to the Constitutional Council, providing a chance for a resolution.

“If the [Rescue Party] does not trust the NEC, it can push for an investigation during meetings with the CPP,” he said.

The Constitutional Council on Wednesday wrapped up hearings two complaints filed by the opposition over last month’s election. The Council upheld decisions by the National Election Committee to reject another four complaints from the opposition on Tuesday.