Thursday, August 1, 2013

STALEMATE...Five days after Cambodian elections

Owing to the time constraints imposed by my filming schedule this post must, of necessity, be brief. I may have an opportunity to amplify on it during the day.
Stalemate. Not an unusual state of affairs in post-election Cambodia. Indeed, par for the course.

Prime Minister Hun Sen, whose Cambodian People’s Party has, on the evidence available at this point, in all likelihood lost the election has presented Sam Rainsy’s opposition CNRP with two options:

(a) accept on blind faith that he will, in the future, cooperate with the opposition in a way that he never has before or

(b)  that he will redistribute the seats won by the CNRP to the losing parties and thus reduce in number the 58 seats it has, according to the National Election Committee, won. This is vintage Hun Sen intimidation. The frying pan or the fire.

As for Hun Sen’s agreement to participate in an independent investigation into allegations of electoral fraud, Hun Sen is playing Good Cop to the National Election Committee’s Bad Cop.

Whilst Hun Sen says that he is open to an independent investigation (Good Cop), the National Election Committee (supposedly independent but under Hun Sen’s control) has ruled out the involvement of political parties, NGOs or any other outsiders. No, the NEC, an integral part of the CPP political machine, will conduct its own investigation into its own conduct. And it (or rather when) it concludes that there has been no electoral fraud Hun Sen can say “This is not my determination. It is the determination of the SEC.” And if questions are asked about the independent investigation he agreed to he can respond, “I as happy to take part in such an investigation but I cannot force the hand of the NEC. It is an independent body and it would be inappropriate for me to be seen to be placing pressure on it.”

Nothing of what is occurring now in past election Cambodia is particularly surprising to anyone who knows how things work here. What is surprising (or at least should be) is that each and every time such electoral scams occur, always well documented, the international donor community makes mealy-mouthed noises regarding its ‘concerns’ about ‘irregularities’ and, when things have settled down, the status quo re-established, continues to shovel huge amounts of money into supporting what is essentially a corrupt dictatorship.

There are no strings attached to Australia’s $70 million or so aid to Cambodia each year. No human rights benchmarks are set which must be met if aid is to continue. Our aid, combined with that of the other international donors, makes it possible, amongst other things, for the government of Cambodia to outsource so many of its social services to the international community whilst spending its own money on such essentials as a 10,000 strong personal bodyguard for the Prime Minister.

And, in allowing the international community to pay for so many of Cambodia’s social services the door has been left open for sham orphanages to set up shop in the country and, through donations and sponsorships, raise large amounts of money to take care of (or ‘rescue’) children (particularly girls) who have agt least one parent living and who are members of a community that could take care of the children for around one fifth of the cost necessary for these children to be cared for in an institution.


Sitting in an office in CNRP headquarters next to a room in which Rainsy is meeting with the Australian  ambassador. It will be interesting to see if the Embassy takes a stand of any kind or if it (along with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Minister Bob Carr) will sit on the sidelines and express no opinion at all regarding what is going on. DFAT insists that it cannot interfere with the internal workings of a sovereign state and yet Australia, along with the rest ofr the  international donor community, interferes regularly with huge injections of cash to keep the current government afloat financially.

Prime Minister Hun Sen says that his Cambodian People’s Party will follow the lead of the National Election Committee (NEC) in relation to any investigation into poll irregularities.
But how independent is the NEC and how transparent will it be in conducting its enquiries into alleged electoral fraud? Especially since some of the alleged fraud has taken place within the NEC itself? The NEC chairman is the younger brother of the CPP Education Minister and the majority of the other members are CPP loyalists.
The NEC insists that it can and will conduct its own investigation and does not need or want the participation of the UN and the international community as requested by Sam Rainsy’s CNRP.
A significant problem as far as voter lists are concerned (especially since at least one million voters names have disappeared from the lists) is that these are complied at the commune level and the village chief has the power to remove voters from the electoral roll. Given that, at a commune level, the village chief everyone’s political allegiances, and given that his wage is paid by the CPP, the temptation to remove CNRP voters from the list is great if the villager chief wants to keep his job.
Son Chhay, spokesman for the CNRP, says that neither his party nor the voters consider the NEC to be independent of Hun Sen’s CPP.  Says Son Chhay, “This organization has been created to steal votes for the CPP. Everyone knows that the NEC is the CPP. If (the CPP) has nothing to hide, why are they afraid of an independent investigation?”
That Son Chhay can feel free to say this in public without fearing being hit with a defamation suit by Hun Sen speaks volumes of how much and how fast things are changing here.

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