By Robin Gomes
Ahead of Sunday’s general election in Cambodia, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for “an inclusive and pluralistic political process” saying that it “remains essential for safeguarding the progress made by Cambodia in consolidating peace.”
Human and democratic rights
Speaking on behalf of Guterres, his spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric told a press briefing on Friday that the Secretary-General is calling on all political actors “to reduce tensions and political polarization.”
Guterres called on the Cambodian government “to uphold international human rights standards and in particular to ensure guarantees for civil society actors and political parties to exercise their democratic rights.” He reiterated the continued commitment of the United Nations to support a peaceful and democratic Cambodia that fully respects the human rights of all its citizens.
Election without opposition
Strongman Hun Sen, the leader of the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), is the world's longest serving prime minister, holding on to power for 33 years.
An election boycott has been called by his critics, saying that without any real opposition to the government, the poll will be a shame.
Last November the rival Cambodia National Rescue Party was dissolved, by court edict, according to reports. Hun Sen's government has fractured the remaining 19 political parties running against the CPP with none of them strongly critical of the prime minister or the government.
The UN independent expert appointed to monitor human rights in Cambodia, Rhona Smith, said at the end of April that there could be no “genuine” election process “if the main opposition party is barred from taking part.”
Some Western countries have also questioned the credibility of the election because of the lack of any significant opposition.
Rights groups have criticized restrictions placed on independent media and civil society. Hun Sen’s government shut down about 30 radio stations and gutted two independent English-language newspapers.
Cambodia-based Licadho human rights group told Reuters that several internet service providers and mobile companies were actively blocking websites of independent, online media radio outlets including Radio Free Asia (RFA), Voice of America (VOA) and Voice of Democracy (VOD) as well as websites of English newspapers..