Cambodia Prime Minister Hun Sen thanks China as he confirms winning all 125 seats in unopposed election
Beijing’s support for the election – for which the US and EU withdrew funding because it was uncontested – continued its recent investment in the country
Cambodia’s 33-year ruler, Prime Minister Hun Sen, pledged to work closely with China with “full commitment” as he announced the ruling party’s winning of full seats in the parliament.
Hun Sen has published his first thank-you letters to China after announcing the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) had won all 125 parliament seats in an unopposed general election held in July.
The messages were sent in response to the congratulatory messages from Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang on Wednesday night, according to Chinese state news agency Xinhua.
It reported that Xi said he was glad to see that under Hun Sen’s leadership in recent years, Cambodia had become more politically stable and more developed in its economy, raised its international status and shown achievements in various fields.
“We believe that the CPP will continue to unite and lead the Cambodian people to follow the development path suitable for their own conditions,” Xi said.
The message from Xi was the first to a foreign counterpart since the end of the annual closed-doors Beidaihe meeting, held in early August among senior Communist Party leaders to set the tone on the nation’s major issues.
The flattery between the two leaders highlights the increasingly close relations between Beijing and Phnom Penh, with military cooperation and China committing to Belt and Road Initiative projects in Cambodia as its biggest foreign investor.
Over the past two years, Beijing has given the kingdom US$600 million – mostly in concessional loans – committed almost US$2 billion to build roads and bridges, handed the country another US$150 million in aid and signed dozens of major infrastructure and business deals worth millions of dollars.
This has been in stark contrast to Hun Sen’s relations with the United States and the European Union, who withdrew funding for the elections, saying they would not support them because they were uncontested.
The main opposition party, Cambodia National Rescue Party, was dissolved under a court order last November, when a five-year political ban was also imposed for all 118 members.
The CPP pointed to 83 per cent voter turnout as evidence that a boycott by the opposition, backed by the West, had failed, but allegations of voter intimidation and some 600,000 spoiled ballots undermined the claims.
Hun Sen claimed the election had “proceeded peacefully, freely, orderly and in a transparent manner ... thanks to a large contribution from the Chinese government” in his letters to China.
“China has not only provided generous assistance for the election process, but also sent the largest ever group of observers to witness this crucial event in my country, for which we are profoundly grateful,” the 67-year-old Cambodian prime minister wrote in his letter to Xi, reported Xinhua.
Before the election, the Cambodian National Election Commission said that in December China had provided 30 types of equipment, including computers and voting booths.