Cambodia’s opposition leader Sam Rainsy, touring Europe and the U.S., said Thursday that international support is growing behind his party’s call for an independent probe into claims of fraud and other irregularities in the country’s recent elections.
Speaking in Washington following his visit to Europe, Sam Rainsy said that governments and parliamentarians in the European Union, the United States and several other nations had backed demands by his Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) for an investigation into the allegations.
“The EU and other countries have expressed suspicions about the election results,” said the CNRP president, whose visit to Europe last week took him to Britain, France and Belgium.
“They know about the election irregularities and fraud, so they support the establishment of an investigative committee.”
The CNRP has boycotted parliament since it convened for the first time last month after July 28 elections in which Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) was declared winner by the government-appointed Election Committee despite claims of vote tampering.
According to official results, the CPP won 68 parliamentary seats to the CNRP’s 55.
The CNRP has held several mass protests and plans many more to push for a probe into the election irregularities and to question the legitimacy of Hun Sen’s government.
Sam Rainsy arrived in the U.S. on Tuesday and met with U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Joseph Burns, who he said also pledged his support for the probe into irregularities, which the CNRP says includes the removal of one million voters from the electoral rolls.
“He stated the U.S stance—that Washington will continue to encourage [Phnom Penh] to establish an investigation to find the truth and to promote real democracy based on the will of the people,” Sam Rainsy said.
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said independent observers had noted “serious election irregularities” in the Cambodian polls.
“We do believe and continue to believe that a credible and transparent review of the election would help efforts moving forward,” she told a media briefing on Wednesday.
The United States, Psaki added, wanted the CPP and the CNRP to seek a resolution of the electoral dispute through dialogue that served the best interests of the Cambodian people and promotes reforms.
Sam Rainsy said that he had also met with United Nations officials and U.S. lawmakers, including members of the Senate, who he said had submitted a resolution demanding an investigation into the election results “to provide justice to the voters.”
Sam Rainsy said that he was encouraged by the response to his party’s demands, adding that the international community had taken a much more cautious approach to this year’s election than it had to those held since the U.N. reintroduced competitive polls to the country in 1993 after decades of civil war.
“In the past, the international community—including the U.N.—rushed to accept the election results, but in 2013, many countries and non-governmental organizations demanded an investigation to uncover the truth,” he said.
“In 2013, we have hope that democracy will not be disrespected.”
The CNRP president again traveled to Europe on Thursday to hold talks with Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs Emma Bonino and will return to Cambodia on Oct. 22.
Sam Rainsy said that while the CNRP disputed the official results of the government-appointed National Election Committee (NEC), which oversees the country’s polls, the party wanted to play a role to check the powers of Hun Sen’s CPP.
“If the CPP wants to find a solution in this transitional period before we uncover the truth, we must share the power,” he said.
“If the ruling party leads the government, the CNRP must lead the National Assembly (parliament), and we must also ensure the independence of the court.”
He said that the CNRP’s call to check the power of the ruling party is “less about power sharing than it is about holding the CPP accountable before the people.”
Negotiations between the CPP and CNRP aimed at forging a political compromise collapsed last month after the opposition party demanded key posts in the National Assembly.
Sam Rainsy said that following his return to Cambodia, he would assist in preparations to hold what he called a “long-planned” mass demonstration on Oct. 23 against the CPP and over its refusal to allow an independent election probe.
The opposition leader also criticized the CPP for “exaggerating information” from previous negotiations between the two parties, without elaborating, saying that the CNRP would abstain from any further talks unless they were made open to the public and the media.
Hun Sen had threatened last month to release an audio recording in which Sam Rainsy purportedly acknowledged a CPP election victory during negotiations.
Earlier this week, the CPP said that it would amend laws and take other steps to reform the country’s electoral system.
Reported by Huot Vuthy for RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Joshua Lipes