Prime Minister Hun Sen, in a speech on Monday, ordered officials to “facilitate” the campaign process for all political parties, including the opposition, a seeming about-face, as they had recently reported being hindered and harassed.
Speaking at a construction site at National Road 3, the premier said local officials must cultivate a “good environment” in advance of the July 29 national elections.
“I give the order because the CPP is one thing, but as prime minister of the Kingdom of Cambodia, I need to take responsibility for all involved institutions and all levels of authorities,” he said.
“The installation of party billboards before the election campaign or gathering thumb prints has to be facilitated,” he continued.
In November, the only viable opposition party, the Cambodia National Rescue Party, was dissolved on widely criticised accusations of attempting to foment revolution. Observers have claimed that Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party now rules an essentially one-party state.
The Grassroots Democracy Party, a small opposition party competing in this year’s election, has frequently reported billboards being denied or taken down.
Sam Inn, GDP secretary-general, said his party has been waiting for a long time for such a statement.
“In short, we welcome the appeal made by the Prime Minister Hun Sen . . . but we are not happy that the order was just made at this time,” he said.
Inn said it is Hun Sen’s duty to ensure the election is fair and transparent.
Political analyst Lao Mong Hay described the premier’s comments as a “last ditch effort to enhance pluralism” and enhance the credibility of the election, which outside observers have declared as neither free nor fair.
The premier seemingly also lashed out at former CNRP president Sam Rainsy, who has called for a boycott of the election, and for the United Nations to revoke Cambodia’s seat if Hun Sen continues to rule with an iron fist.
“Some consider that if their party cannot compete in the election, the international community will not recognise it,” Hun Sen said.
He said the CNRP has only “one or two” countries supporting it, despite the fact that 46 countries condemned the recent political crackdown.
“Don’t forget that many countries support the current government and continue working with the current government,” he said, mentioning China and Russia by name.
Hun Sen said the opposition cherry picks the meaning of the “international community”, only including countries that oppose the government.
“What does the international community refer to? And which country is it referring to?” he asked.
“The seat belongs to Cambodia, it is not your seat,” he added.