Cambodian opposition leader says poll protest ‘last resort’
Agence France-Presse in Phnom Penh
Cambodia’s opposition leader Sam Rainsy on Friday said mass protests were “a last resort” against hotly disputed election results that handed victory to strongman Prime Minister Hun Sen.
Rainsy reiterated his belief that the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) won the July 28 poll despite preliminary results handing victory to the incumbent premier’s long-ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP).
“[We will] keep demanding justice for the people. We have to prepare all kinds of measures,” he told reporters, speaking on his return from his daughter’s wedding in the United States.
But he added that threatened mass demonstrations were a “last resort” to overturn a Hun Sen win.
Political deadlock has gripped Cambodia since the CPP claimed victory at the polls, with the military deployed in the capital Phnom Penh last week after the opposition repeatedly threatened to take to the streets.
Preliminary official results, released on Monday by the National Election Committee (NEC), found Hun Sen’s CPP had edged the popular poll, taking 3.2 million votes to the opposition’s 2.9 million - although it is yet to reveal the share of parliamentary seats.
The opposition has rejected and appealed the results, demanding an independent probe into its allegation that the election was tarnished by massive vote-rigging.
“The whole world knows that CNRP won the election and the whole world will help CNRP to expose the truth,” Rainsy said.
The NEC said the political impasse means they will now announce the number of seats by September 8.
The CPP claims it secured an estimated 68 of the 123 lower house seats available, while the CNRP won 55.
If confirmed, it would be the ruling party’s worst election result since 1998.
But the opposition, which has also threatened to boycott parliament, says it won and last week called on the United Nations to help resolve the impasse.
While an inquiry into the election has been broadly accepted by all involved, the parties have failed to agree on the composition of a probe committee.
The CNRP has softened its initial call for the UN to sit on the panel, but has instead pushed for the exclusion of the NEC - which it accuses of pro-government bias.
Hun Sen - who has been in power for 28 years - has vowed to establish a government under his leadership despite the opposition’s allegations.
The premier, 61, a former Khmer Rouge cadre who defected from the murderous regime, has vowed to rule until he is 74.