Thursday, June 13, 2024

Cambodia elections and US sanctions

Cambodia has a political party that can challenge CPP and Hun Sen's rule. The name of the party is Candlelight Party. However, the party could not participate in this election. The party was disqualified from participating in the national elections in May this year citing registration errors.

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Cambodia has a political party that can challenge CPP and Hun Sen’s rule. The name of the party is Candlelight Party. However, the party could not participate in this election. The party was disqualified from participating in the national elections in May this year citing registration errors.

We are currently living in a modern era, passing through the history of thousands of years of the world, where on the one hand, the extreme excellence of science has made our overall life much easier, as well as various complications have been created due to modernity. In this long journey of mankind, numerous events have happened at various times, which have been preserved under the name of history. History takes us back in a time machine thousands of years ago. History tells us that the path of mankind has never been easy.

If the history of the last two thousand years can be reviewed, it will be seen that the soil of the earth has been stained with human blood countless times. A few differences or animosities ingrained in the brain have started countless fratricidal conflicts, in which humanity has been misled by man and not by any other animal. If we look more deeply, we can see that the largest part of those who lost their lives in various conflicts due to political reasons were innocent ordinary people who were away from politics. Cambodia’s election was held a few days ago, which caught the attention of the people of the world. Cambodia’s ruling party is the CPP. Party leader Hun Sen has served as the country’s elected prime minister for 38 years. He is also the longest-serving elected ruler in Asia.

Recently, Hun Sen’s 45-year-old son and Cambodian army chief Hun Manet said to supporters that only the CPP has the ability to manage the country. Hun Sen himself created this situation during his 38-year rule. Hun Sen is now 70 years old. Early in his reign, he was known as a pro-Vietnamese communist ruler. This was followed by the introduction of a UN-backed multi-party system in Cambodia. Hun Sen was still the prime minister. Currently, Hun Sen maintains a dictatorial regime in the country.

Cambodia has a political party that can challenge CPP and Hun Sen’s rule. The name of the party is Candlelight Party. However, the party could not participate in this election. The party was disqualified from participating in the national elections in May this year citing registration errors. The decision sparked widespread criticism in Cambodia. According to critics, this is another example of Hun Sen’s move to narrow the scope of democratic participation in Cambodia. Because none of the remaining 17 parties participating in this election have the ability to build a strong resistance against the CPP. For this reason, critics call this year’s election the least free, fair and participatory in Cambodia in decades. The CPP claimed an absolute victory within hours of polling. It is said that more than 80 percent of the votes will fall in their hands. Meanwhile, it is hoped that After winning the election, father Hun Sen may be succeeded by his son Hun Manet. Therefore, it is better to call it a son’s coronation rather than a general election, according to analysts.

On the other hand, the United States imposed a visa ban on Cambodia before the elections were over. Also, some foreign aid programs have been suspended. The US took this step after the country’s ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) declared a landslide victory in the last election. The US said the move was due to the deteriorating democratic situation in the country. Visa restrictions have been imposed on those involved in situations that undermine the dignity of democracy. 

US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said in a statement that Cambodia’s elections were not free and fair. Prime Minister Hun Sen’s CPP did not have a strong opposition party in the election. Cambodia’s anti-government political parties threatened and harassed the media and civil society ahead of the election. The dignity of the country’s constitution has been undermined. Moreover, Cambodia’s elections did not meet international standards.

Miller called on the Cambodian government to restore multiparty democracy. On the other hand, Mu Shochua, a member of another opposition political party banned in 2017 and exiled former minister Mu Shochua, said, “We cannot call this election a fraudulent election.” Rather, we can call it an election that confirms Hun Sen’s victory. This would allow Hun Sen’s party to choose his son as the country’s next prime minister and continue the Hun family empire.

Hun Manet has been preparing for a long time to become the head of government. He is expected to succeed his father within weeks of the election. Therefore, many analysts are calling this election a ‘coronation’.

Despite all this, CPP leaders appeared somewhat hesitant ahead of the election. For this they quickly passed laws making it a crime to spoil ballots or encourage election boycotts. Under this, some members of the opposition party Candlelight Party were also arrested.

Ou Virak, the founder of Cambodia’s thinktank Future Forum, said that they knew they were going to win the election. It was an easy result for them. But achieving electoral legitimacy was difficult. The opposition should be kept weak. At the same time people should be kept happy. Obstacles such as street protests in achieving these two goals were prevented earlier. A comment by Cambodian voter Prak Sophep will help to understand the current situation. He said Hun Sen has always advocated policies that benefit all parties involved. But people understand that, in the end, he alone benefits. People cannot live in peace.

After the military coup in Myanmar on February 1 last year, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen visited the country for the first time as a head of state in January last year. Cambodia is the chair of this year’s Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Although ASEAN has no official agenda, his visit is believed to be about the ongoing impasse in Myanmar. Hun Sen visited Myanmar with his five ministers, deputy chief of the armed forces, two deputy ministers and a group of delegates in a grand ceremony, despite objections from various countries and human rights organizations.

In this visit, the interests of the autocratic heads of the two countries have been achieved more than the people of Myanmar. Although the Myanmar military welcomed Hun Sen with an honor guard and a red carpet, Myanmar’s pro-democracy activists opposed the visit and protested by chanting slogans and bursting bombs. Anti-coup protests spread across the country amid fears that Hun Sen’s visit would further legitimize the brutal junta. And the real purpose of this visit is also believed to be the same.

Hun Sen and Min Aung Hlaing discussed various bilateral and regional issues, the ASEAN-backed Five Resolutions, the case of Australian economist Sean Turnell, who is jailed in Myanmar on charges of violating state secrets, and the coronavirus pandemic. But Cambodia’s foreign ministry has already indicated that there has been no meeting with the pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi or there will be no talks about her release. From this visit, no promising outline was found to resolve the civil war situation in Myanmar. 

In a unilateral announcement after the visit, Myanmar’s military extended a ceasefire with various armed ethnic groups until the end of the year. However, no real results were observed.

In Sagaing, Shin, Kayah, Ka-in states, the Myanmar military has continued its unprovoked attacks, which has already displaced nearly half a million people. Despite the fact that the military will cooperate with humanitarian aid reaching Myanmar, on the contrary, they have stopped all relief operations by adopting a terrible policy like four-cut. The military’s policy was developed in the 1970s under the former regime of the Burmese Socialist Program Party. Its purpose is to weaken ethnic militias by cutting off access to food, funds, information and personnel, with often devastating consequences. Now the army is attacking the pro-democracy guerrilla groups PDF and ethnic armed groups using the general public as shields. A notable aspect of Hun Sen’s visit was, Junta forces have agreed to allow ASEAN’s special envoy to join ceasefire talks between the army and ethnic armed rebels in Myanmar’s border region. However, the Cambodian Prime Minister’s visit failed to implement any of the ASEAN five-point consensus.

Now many people are raising the question, how will Hun Sen change his own image? Without the support of the remaining eight ASEAN countries behind Hun Sen’s visit, the previous steps taken by ASEAN to resolve the Myanmar crisis are likely to be destroyed. The failure to implement the five-point action on the Myanmar issue has called ASEAN’s credibility into question. Hun Sen’s actions will further damage the organization’s global acceptance. Cambodia will try to include Myanmar in a possible informal gathering of ASEAN foreign ministers from January 18 to 19 last year. Through this, arrangements can be made to ensure the presence of the Myanmar junta forces at the ASEAN annual conference and a possible meeting between ASEAN heads of state and US President Joe Biden in Washington.

Hun Sen will try to legitimize his authoritarian initiatives in Cambodia through these efforts in the international arena. Because, everyone knows that Myanmar and Cambodia are now on the opposite side of the currency. Anyway, meanwhile, a political crisis has intensified in the country with the upcoming national parliament elections in Bangladesh.

Again, various western states including foreign diplomats have increased their efforts to solve this political crisis. Diplomats of several countries including the United States, European Union have already visited Bangladesh. They have held several meetings with various government and non-governmental organizations and organizations of the state, including the government party, the opposition party, and taken opinions. But the internal political crisis of a country cannot be solved by the diplomats of the foreign countries, political analysts said. Analysts say that even if the like-minded anti-government parties including BNP do not participate in the elections, we hope that a situation like Cambodia does not happen.

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