Monday, August 5, 2013

Letter to Australia's Foreign Minister, Bob Carr

The post-election deadlock continues.

Prime Minister Hun Sen's Cambodian People's Party claims to have won the election with 68 seats in a 123 seat National Assembly.
Sam Rainsy's Cambodian National Rescue party claims to have won 63 seats and asked for an independent enquiry into election 'irregularities'.
The National Election Committee (NEC), the supposedly independent body whose job it is to adjudicate and deal impartially with complaints (but made up almost entirely of CPP appointees)  has declared that it will not participate in the kind of independent investigation that the CNRP has insisted must take place to determine who won the election. "Trust us", is, in essence, what the NEC is saying.
The CNRP has good reason, based on the experience of several elections, not to trust the NEC.
The problem confronting Sam Rainsy's CNRP is that ever body to whom the party could turn with its complaints is far from independent of Hun Sen's Cambodian People's Party.
There is talk now that the question of who won the election may be eventually turned over to the Constitutional council - the highest court in the land to which an appeal can be made vis a vis elections. This would be a great idea if the Constitutional Council were a demonstrably impartial body. It is not. It is made up in its entirety of CPP appointees who owe a debt of allegiance to Hun Sen.
Given the quite large sums of money given to Cambodia by Australia to help facilitate the holding of free and fair elections, I have sent the following letter to Australia's Foreign Minister, the Hon Bob Carr.


Senator, the Hon Bob Carr
Foreign Minister
RG Casey Building
John McEwan Crescent
Barton, ACT 0221 Australia

6th August 2013

Dear Senator Carr

Between Jan 2006 and December 2010 Australia contributed $2,271,000 towards “strengthening democracy and electoral processes in Cambodia”.  Australia was not alone in this initiative. The US spent $3.5 million, Canada $2.5 million and other countries smaller amounts to bring the total to just under $10 million.

The objective of this multi-national assistance programme was to "support Cambodia in conducting free, fair, transparent and sustainable elections," including, "developing the capacity and leadership of the National Election Committee (NEC), Provincial Election Commissions and Commune Election Commissions through training and advice," and "improv(ing) the electoral framework, including the complaints and appeals process..."

Given that more ‘irregularities’  have been reported during the July 2013 election than in any previous election since 1995, and that the complaints and appeals processes remain under the control of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, was this $10 million well spent.That a week after the elections the NEC insists that it is able to investigate complaints made about its own conduct suggests that the answer is 'no'.

The NEC investigating the NEC is clearly an unsatisfactory way of arriving at the truth as to how many voters were prevented from voting,and why,and how the missing votes (estimated to be as high as 1 million) might have affected the election's eventual outcome both in terms of seats in the National Assembly and who - Hun Sen or Sam Rainsy - should be Cambodia's next Prime Minister.

If an independent investigation were to discover that the 'irregularities' were minor and have not dramatically altered to end result of the election a new Hun Sen government can be sworn in and the opposition, the Cambodian National Rescue Party, can get on with the business of being an effective opposition.

In light of the Australian government's belief that the conducting of free and fair elections was important enough to invest $2.2 million to encourage, will you, as Australia's Foreign Minister, now request of Prime Minister Hun Sen and the National Election Committee that a truly independent investigation into alleged election 'irregularities' occur?

best wishes

James Ricketson

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