Tokyo Remains Tight-Lipped as China Endorses Cambodia’s Election

Cambodians hold Japan's flags and their national flags as they listen to Prime Minister Hun Sen's speech during an inauguration ceremony of a road funded by Japan for its official use at Kdey Takoy village, outside of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Tuesday, March 13, 2018. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Japan sent election monitors to Cambodian elections in 1993, 1998, 2003 and 2008, but did not do so in last month's national elections.

China has endorsed the Cambodian general election results, which saw Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party win a landslide victory and claim all seats in parliament amid reports of threats and voter intimidation.

Japan, however, has remained silent in the aftermath of the election, has withdrawn its offer of election observation shortly before the vote.

The CPP-dominated National Election Committee reported voter turnout at 82 percent, but a large number of voters spoiled their ballots.

Western democracies have poured condemnation on the election, questioning the legitimacy of the results following the banning of the country’s main opposition party in November.

China, however, has stood behind its Southeast Asian ally, offering its “good neighbor and friend” Hun Sen congratulations on his win.

Geng Shuang, China’s foreign ministry spokesman, told reporters on Monday: “We hope that under the leadership of the forthcoming National Assembly and government, the Cambodian people will make greater achievements in their national development.”

“The parliamentary election is Cambodia's internal affairs and a major event in the political life of Cambodians.”

Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga speaks during a press conference to announce the new line up of Cabinet at the prime minister's official residence in Tokyo, Thursday, Aug. 3, 2017.

While Cambodia has grown increasingly reliant on Chinese aid and loans for national development and on Beijing for political support, Hun Sen has grown more distant with western powers and Japan.

Yoshihide Suga, Japan’s chief cabinet secretary, on Monday declined to comment on the election results when asked by reporters.

“Well, as the government of Japan we haven’t dispatched the monitor inspectors for the election; therefore, I am not going to give you any comment on this election in Cambodia,” Yoshihide said.

Also on Monday, the Cambodia National Rescue Party, which was banned in November, told reporters in Jakarta, Indonesia, that the election was a “sham”.

However, the foreign ministry on Tuesday responded to the criticism from the west and former opposition, saying it regretted the “politically motivated assessments” of some foreign governments “who refused to send observers and instead declared from the beginning until the end that the election was not free and fair.”

“Such manner undermined the spirit of friendship and cooperation that have been enhanced thus far and cast (sic) doubt on the genuine sincerity to witness Cambodia further progressing in its irreversible democratization”.