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Opportunity For Reform In Cambodia

Supporters of National Rescue Party gather to give their thumbprint as they complain that their names were not in the voting lists in July 28 election.

Cambodia’s National Election Committee recently announced the preliminary results of the July 28 elections for the National Assembly.

Cambodia’s National Election Committee recently announced the preliminary results of the July 28 elections for the National Assembly. The opposition party is challenging those results.

Opportunity For Reform In Cambodia
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U.S. Ambassador to Cambodia William E. Todd, in a commentary published in the Cambodian press, said the U.S. Embassy “is closely following developments with the elections and has consistently called for a full and transparent investigation of reported irregularities that is credible in the eyes of the Cambodian electorate.

Just as importantly,” said Ambassador Todd, “we continue to urge both parties to engage in positive and constructive dialogue to find a peaceful way forward that is in the best interests of the Cambodian people.”

Ambassador Todd noted that discussions with representatives of both political parties, civil society leaders and everyday citizens shows a broad consensus among Cambodians “that the elections were a resounding call for meaningful reforms, particularly in the electoral process, economic expansion, and combating corruption.”

“As the contentious post-election review shows,” wrote Ambassador Todd, “significant changes to the electoral process are needed to give all the parties and the Cambodian people greater faith in future election results.”

To meet these needs, Cambodians should consider forming a committee to investigate election irregularities and address weaknesses and vulnerabilities in the election process with an eye toward future elections.

Another step forward would be to implement the recommendations of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights, such as correcting the voter registry and making the activities of the National Election Committee fully non-partisan and transparent.

Ambassador Todd welcomed Prime Minister Hun Sen’s recent announcement of an increase in the wages of many civil servants, particularly those at the lower end of the salary range, as a positive first step to reform. This reform, supported across party lines, and with broad public support, is important in building an honest and professional civil service. “The increase in the salaries of civil servants,” Ambassador Todd observed, “is one method that can reduce the temptation of corruption to secure extra income.”

Ambassador Todd urged members of both parties to work together in a constructive manner when the new National Assembly is formed. “The free exchange of ideas and vigorous debate will result in the best policies put into practice.”