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Opposition Senator Begins US Trip in Wake of Elections

Ho Vann is an SRP senator for Phnom Penh.
Ho Vann is an SRP senator for Phnom Penh.

Ho Vann, a newly elected Cambodian senator for the opposition, begins a monthlong trip to the US this week to meet with supporters of the Sam Rainsy Party and update them on the current political situation.

Speaking from Lowell, Mass., Monday, Ho Vann said he was meeting with supporters to describe election irregularities from June’s polls and to seek input on next year’s election.

“The election is still flawed and cheating,” he said.

He himself was unable to properly observe voting in June, he said. Local officials did not let him know the names of voters or observe those getting voter IDs. Practices like this prevented opposition supporters from voting, he said.

The National Election Committee has not been open with registration, he said, “which is just like open to commune chiefs of [the ruling Cambodian People’s Party] to issue the ID papers as they wish,” he said. “That’s fraudulence of votes.”

Other issues included election officials allowing CPP member cards to be eligible IDs for voting and closed-door counting at some polling stations, he said.

Looking ahead to next year, he said party leader Sam Rainsy’s exile and a raft of criminal charges against him remain a “political case” that needs resolved.

Sam Rainsy will have to return for the 2013 elections, he said, otherwise “the election is meaningless and the election is not free and fair.”

The Human Rights Party, the minority opposition, will not be enough to balance power against the ruling party, he added. A merging of the two parties will have some obstacles, he said, but he said the joining of the two would be in “national interest.”

“If we allow one more term” of the ruling party, he said, “that will be dangerous.”

“I believe that personal and party interests can be kept in the background to allow democratic forces to unite in order to defeat the CPP,” he said.

Both sides will meet in a committee, with witnesses, to ensure that no one change’s his or her mind and that everyone is “mutually loyal,” he said.

Ho Vann is an SRP senator for Phnom Penh. He said the municipality has been an obstacle for the resolution of the longstanding land dispute over the Boeung Kak development, which has seen violent clashes, arrests and demonstrations. A plan by Prime Minister Hun Sen to distribute more than 12 hectares to holdouts has not worked, he said.

Aside from Lowell, Ho Vann will meet supporters in Philadelphia, Penn., and New York before returning to Cambodia at the end of July.