France and Australia have congratulated Prime Minister Hun Sen on his official re-election in July’s contested vote, with their endorsement coming as opposition leader Sam Rainsy visits Europe urging donors to suspend ties with the new government.
While many other countries—mostly in Asia—were quick to congratulate Mr. Hun Sen and his ruling CPP, Australia and the European Union were among the few that expressed concern about the official results and, along with the U.S., echoed the opposition CNRP’s call for an impartial investigation of voting irregularities.
Now France and Australia have joined in with belated congratulations.
“On the occasion of your re-election as the head of the Cambodian government, I wish to offer you my congratulations,” French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault told Mr. Hun Sen in a letter dated October 4 and released by the Council of Ministers on Saturday.
Mr. Rainsy’s opposition CNRP is refusing to take its 55 seats in the National Assembly in protest over what it believes were flawed elections and is calling the new parliament, which formed with only Mr. Hun Sen’s 68 lawmakers present, unconstitutional and illegitimate. He is urging some of Cambodia’s main donors, including the E.U., to suspend all current agreements with the country and to refrain from signing new contracts until the standoff is settled.
Hinting at the opposition’s boycott of parliament, Mr. Ayrault adds, “it is important that all of Cambodia’s political actors from now on work together for the good of the indispensable institutions of democracy and for the development of the country.”
Newly elected Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, in a letter to Mr. Hun Sen dated October 6 and released Friday, thanks Mr. Hun Sen for his own letter of congratulations on his election win.
After thanking Mr. Hun Sen for his congratulations, Mr. Abbott added, “I would also like to take this opportunity to congratulate you on your appointment as prime minister of the Kingdom of Cambodia.”
Mr. Abbott says, “I look forward to a process of reconciliation of all parties that will sustain peace and security as the foundation of Cambodia’s future.”
As recently as late August, the Australian Embassy in Phnom Penh was calling for a transparent investigation of reportedly widespread election-day irregularities, an option the CPP has consistently rejected and effectively blocked.
The day the CPP’s 68 officially elected lawmakers opened the National Assembly without the opposition’s 55 lawmakers, on September 23, the E.U. issued its own statement to say parliament “cannot serve its purpose” without the CNRP.
CNRP chief whip Son Chhay said the letters from the French and Australian prime ministers were “a bit disappointing.”
“We would prefer that the Australian government consider this decision more seriously because Australia took a major role in supporting the peace process in the late 80s.”
But Mr. Chhay said he still had hope some of Cambodia’s donors might take up the opposition’s call to suspend aid and trade deals.
“We have tried [this] in the past, but this time around is a bit different because the election fraud is so real and the opposition has clearly won the election,” he said.
A spokesperson for the Australian Embassy on Sunday would not say whether Mr. Abbott’s letter amounted to an endorsement of the contested election result, but added that Australia had a policy of recognizing states, not governments.
“The Australian Embassy hopes that dialogue will continue between the two parties, including on a transparent investigation of electoral irregularities, and hopes that the door will be left open for CNRP to take up seats in the National Assembly,” the spokesperson said via email.
The French Embassy did not respond to a request for comment.
(Additional reporting by Kate Bartlett)
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