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Japan Could Be Positive Influence on Cambodian Democracy: Analysts

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, right, and Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen shake hands after their meeting at Abe's office in Tokyo Monday, Oct. 8, 2018. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko, Pool)

In an interview with Japan’s Kyodo news last week, Hun Sen said Japan’s “strong economy and political stability” was a “model of real democracy”.

Last week, Prime Minister Hun Sen touted Japan as a democratic model for Cambodia to emulate. Analysts have since said that Japan’s democratic model could be a positive influence on Cambodian politics.

In an interview with Japan’s Kyodo news on Friday, Hun Sen said Japan’s “strong economy and political stability” was a “model of real democracy”.

Chheang Vannarith, a regional analyst and researcher, said Japan was “one of the most successful democracies in Asia.”

“It is a source of inspiration for other Asian countries. However, for democracy to grow, it starts with genuine political will and commitment from the top and socialization of democratic values across the board. Rule of law is the core element of democracy,” he said.

“If the people do not have the knowledge, democracy can become a tool of politicians," he added. "It is a demagogic democracy that is now flourishing and it spreads around the world because politicians use democracy as a pedestal or as an instrument for the ambition of the power. This is also a risk factor for democracy."

Koul Panha, director of the election watchdog Comfrel, said in Japan there was a deep respect for the role of the opposition in parliamentary politics.

“The ruling party especially the Prime Minister regularly, and the leaders of each party, they have a high political conscience," he said.

"But we face a higher risk when we take our country back to non-respect for human rights, democracy, return to one-party rule like China, then it can lead to our country's recalculation and potentially serious political conflicts,” he added.

“But I still have faith because of the democratic process. Democracy is just a process, it can be modified, it is not impossible to change. It is because we have principles and in our constitution, we are liberal and pluralist and have respect human rights are immutable."

Speaking at the United Nations last month, Hun Sen said human rights advocacy had become a “civilizing mission” of superpowers.