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Opposition Officials Push US for More Support in Elections

Commune elections will be held later this year, with the National Assembly election to follow in 2013.

A senior US official met with members of Cambodia’s opposition parties and other government officials on Tuesday to discuss ways forward toward free and fair elections later this year and next.

Daniel Baer, who is the US State Department’s deputy assistant secretary for democracy, human rights and labor, met with officials from government, the opposition Sam Rainsy and Human Rights parties and others, to discuss upcoming commune elections, which will be held in June 2012, and national elections, to be held next year.

Free and fair elections will require more funding of pro-democracy groups like the US-based International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute, Kem Sokha, president of the minority opposition Human Rights Party, told reporters after his meeting with Baer.

Other issues he raised included bias with the National Election Committee and local authorities for the ruling party, unequal media access, and fraud in voter identification, he said.

“We raised so many issues, including judiciary reform, land disputes, corruption and elections,” Yim Sovann, a lawmaker and spokesman for the Sam Rainsy Party, told reporters in front of the US Embassy after meeting with Baer. “We were also talking about our opposition party’s strategy for the upcoming commune and national elections. We demand a comprehensive resolution. We must reform the judiciary.”

Kem Sokha said Baer, who was not available for comment, had promised the US was not abandoning opposition parties and would raise their concerns with the Cambodian government and US officials.

A US Embassy spokesman confirmed Baer had met with government and opposition officials, but declined to elaborate.