“The July 23 Cambodian national elections were neither free nor fair,” declared State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller in a statement.
The party of long-time Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen declared a landslide victory in parliamentary elections. The Cambodian People’s Party faced no viable opponent after the disqualification of the sole credible opposition party, the Candlelight Party, shortly before the election. As a consequence, the Cambodian People’s Party faced off against 17 mostly obscure parties, none of which won seats in the last election in 2018.
Prime Minister Hun Sen, who is now 70, has announced that he plans to hand over the position at some point to his eldest son, General Hun Manet. Nevertheless, Prime Minister Hun Sen has made clear he will keep his hand on the levers of power. Earlier in June, he stated, “Even if I am no longer a prime minister, I will still control politics as the head of the ruling party.”
“Ahead of the elections, Cambodian authorities engaged in a pattern of threats and harassment against the political opposition, media, and civil society that undermined the spirit of the country’s constitution and Cambodia’s international obligations,” said spokesperson Miller. “These actions denied the Cambodian people a voice and a choice in determining the future of their country.” Indeed, at least 39 opposition politicians are held in Cambodian prisons, according to Amnesty International.
In response, the United States has taken steps to impose visa restrictions on individuals who undermined democracy and implemented a pause of certain foreign assistance programs.
As the ruling Cambodian People’s Party forms a new government, authorities have an opportunity to improve the country’s international standing, including by restoring genuine multi-party democracy, ending politically motivated trials, reversing convictions of government critics, and allowing independent media outlets to reopen and function without interference.
“The United States,” said spokesperson Miller, “looks forward to a continued partnership with the Cambodian people to support their aspirations for a more prosperous, democratic, and independent country where all voices are heard.”