Democracy Tied to 'Universal Values,' Cambodian Opposition Leader Says

Share on WhatsApp
Share on WhatsApp
khmer-japan2-061118.jpg Cambodian protesters in New York call on Japan to end support for Cambodia's government, June 1, 2018.

True democracy reflects universal values and cannot be reshaped to fit the needs of dictators, Cambodian opposition leader Sam Rainsy said in an interview on Monday by telephone from Paris, where he lives in self-imposed exile to avoid convictions at home seen as politically motivated.

“Basic democracy and human rights have only definition, reflecting universal values,” the former president of the now-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) told RFA’s Khmer Service. “All people should enjoy equal rights, regardless of their religion, race, color, or national origin.”

Under long-serving Cambodian prime minister Hun Sen, however, “the laws applied in Cambodia are the laws of the jungle,” Rainsy said, calling the Southeast Asian country a one-party state under one-man rule.

“Under Hun Sen, there is only rule by law, not rule of law.”

“[In Cambodia], laws are created only to serve the interests of powerful people and their cronies. We must continue to fight for democracy,” Rainsy said.

Also speaking to RFA, Sok Eysan—spokesperson for Hun Sen’s ruling Cambodian People’s Party—said however that democracy in Cambodia may not fit models imposed by Western countries increasingly critical of Hun Sen’s more than 30-year rule.

“For example, Americans like eating hamburgers, because they are delicious for Americans. However, very few Cambodians like hamburgers,” Eysan said. “If a hamburger restaurant were opened here, only youngsters would care to visit it.”

“People can have different views and likes,” Eysan said, adding,“In other words, the same object can be viewed differently by different people.”

Call to boycott

Speaking from exile, Sam Rainsy has urged Cambodians to boycott national elections planned for July 29 in order to “deprive the ruling party of its legitimacy” if the now-banned CNRP is denied the right to take part in the ballot.

The CNRP received more than 3 million votes—accounting for nearly half of the country’s registered voters—in Cambodia’s 2013 general election, and enjoyed similar success in last year’s commune ballot, making it the only legitimate challenger to the CPP ahead of July.

Meanwhile, Cambodians living in Australia has collected thumbprints for a petition to be submitted on Tuesday to the Japanese embassy in Canberra, urging Japan to end its assistance to Cambodia’s National Election Committee, a support widely seen as helping to legitimize Hun Sen’s rule.

Speaking to RFA, Cambodian-Australian lawmaker Hong Lim said that Japan has an important role to play in helping Cambodia make progress toward establishing itself as a true multiparty democracy.

“We are asking Japan to support us,” Hong Lim said. “And we are asking them not to recognize the results of the upcoming election.”

Reported by RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Nareth Muong. Written in English by Richard Finney.


Add your comment by filling out the form below in plain text. Comments are approved by a moderator and can be edited in accordance with RFAs Terms of Use. Comments will not appear in real time. RFA is not responsible for the content of the postings. Please, be respectful of others' point of view and stick to the facts.