Cambodia’s Opposition Joins Forces Ahead of 2013 Election

Posted August 9th, 2012 at 7:10 pm (UTC-5)
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Cambodia's two leading opposition parties have decided to join forces ahead of next year's election for a better chance to unseat the ruling Cambodian People's Party.

The Sam Rainsy Party will merge with the Human Rights Party under the leadership of Sam Rainsy, who currently lives in self-imposed exile in France. The new union, called the National Salvation Party, will officially register next month.

During a visit to Washington this week, Sam Rainsy told VOA that members of the new party will fight to reform Cambodia's electoral system ahead of the 2013 election.

“Many observers — independent observers — especially those from the European Union declared that Cambodia's elections are not democratic; they do not meet the international standards for democratic elections, and as an essential recommendation they recommend a reform, a deep reform of the electoral body that administers the elections. But unfortunately that electoral commission is under the control of the ruling party, which manipulates the elections and they secure victory even before the voting day.”

Sam Rainsy said the united opposition will offer solutions to Cambodia's many problems, which he said are a lack of political freedom, poverty, land-grabbing, poor health care and poor education. He said the party will especially fight against deep-rooted corruption that he says cripples the country's economy.

While many Asian countries, including Cambodia's neighbor Burma, have made progress toward democracy, Sam Rainsy said Cambodia has become more totalitarian.

“Burma and Cambodia are two neighboring countries. They are both members of (the 10-member regional grouping) ASEAN. But over the last few months, they have moved in the opposite directions. On the one hand, we applaud the democratic progress in Burma. But on the other hand, we have to deplore the totalitarian drift in Cambodia. In Burma, opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi was released from the house arrest along with many political prisoners. She was allowed to take part in the last (legislative) elections and the following electoral process, I hope. But in Cambodia, the leader of the opposition (myself) has been forced into exile for nearly three years and he is prevented from running in the next election.”

Sam Rainsy fled Cambodia in 2010 after the government accused him of inciting unrest in the areas along the border with Vietnam. But he said he is confident that a political solution will be found to enable him to return to run in next year's election.

The ruling Cambodian People's Party won a majority of legislative seats in the 2008 election.