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Cambodian Opposition leader calls for international help ahead of election
Cambodia's main opposition party led protests in Phnom Penh this week, with demonstrators calling for international monitoring of the poll which is due on the 28th of July. Jim Middleton spoke to Cambodian Opposition leader Sam Rainsy.

Jim Middleton spoke to Cambodian Opposition Leader, Sam Rainsy.
Transcript
JIM MIDDLETON, PRESENTER: Protesters have been taking to the streets of Phnom Penh demanding Cambodians get a free and fair national election.

The demonstrators want international monitoring of the poll due at the end of July.

The protests have been organised by the Cambodian National Rescue Party, the main opposition force to prime minister Hun Sen's government.

Sam Rainsy is Cambodia's opposition leader; and even at this late stage he doesn't know whether he will be allowed back into his country to contest the election.

Sam Rainsy, welcome to the program.

SAM RAINSY, CAMBODIAN OPPOSITION LEADER: Thank you.

JIM MIDDLETON: Will you return to Cambodia, do you think? Do you think you'll have a chance to contest these elections personally?

SAM RAINSY: If there is any free and fair election, yes, definitely, I will take part in that election.

JIM MIDDLETON: The government has its conditions for your return. You probably have some of your own. There is this unresolved case you have against Hun Sen hanging over him. What are your terms for a return to Cambodia?

SAM RAINSY: I want the Cambodian government to follow the recommendations from the United Nations, and those UN recommendations are supported by the whole world. Therefore, the Cambodian government must abide by the UN recommendations.

JIM MIDDLETON: Isn't that a vain hope, though, given that Hun Sen has already thrown them out and simply said they're ridiculous.

SAM RAINSY: No. Cambodia cannot afford to reject the UN recommendations; the Hun Sen government would have the whole world against them. Cambodia cannot afford to be isolated. Cambodia heavily depends on international assistance. Therefore, we have to take into account opinion expressed by donor countries and by the international community at large.

JIM MIDDLETON: But despite all that's happened, there have been interruptions to aid, but despite all that’s happened, many countries are still providing considerable assistance to Cambodia. And, again, it would be something of a vain hope to expect that even despite what has happened, that that will end?

SAM RAINSY: No. This time is different because more and more Cambodians have been victims of the economic policies of the Hun Sen government. I am referring to land grabbing, land confiscation, expulsion of farmers from their lands, from their homes. This is a tragedy that has been denounced by all international human rights organisations. And poverty is getting worse and worse. Human rights violations are more and more serious, and this is the first time that the UN has stepped in since 1993, calling for free and fair elections.

JIM MIDDLETON: On that question of land confiscation, if you do get the chance to personally contest the elections, I presume that will be one of the fundamental planks of your campaign. What else is of prime importance to you in terms of a platform for Cambodia's future?

SAM RAINSY: What is most important is the rule of law; the fight against corruption, transparency, accountability. In one word, good governance. Cambodia is going down the drain because of government corruption, corruption is systemic.

According to transparency, international, Cambodia is one of the world's most corrupt countries. And according to the World Bank, Cambodia is one of the world's most poorest countries. So, therefore, we have to curb corruption in order to reduce poverty.

JIM MIDDLETON: One dead journalist at least, others silenced, and environmentalists assassinated, among other things. How can elections be free and fair with that, against that backdrop?

SAM RAINSY: In 1993 the United Nations has intervened and organised the first ever democratic elections in Cambodia because the Paris Peace Accords...

JIM MIDDLETON: But that was an election you won. Since then, the UN has not been allowed to intervene, as far as I am aware. Why in this those circumstances would Hun Sen allow the UN to be involved when it is likely to produce or may well produce a result he's not going to like?

SAM RAINSY: No, because what is happening now in Cambodia is contrary to the Paris Peace Accords, that many countries, including Australia, has signed. Therefore, the international community has not only the right but the obligation to put the democratic path, the democratisation process back on track.

JIM MIDDLETON: Sam Rainsy, thank you very much indeed.

SAM RAINSY: Thank you.
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