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Fallout from Cambodia's disputed election result
Amid opposition allegations of widespread cheating, Cambodia's election authorities have finally released preliminary results handing victory to long serving Prime Minister, Hun Sen. But the fallout may be widening, with Cambodia halting military cooperation programs with the US and Australia.

Liam Cochrane reports.
JIM MIDDLETON, PRESENTER: Another election, another disputed result in Cambodia.

Amid opposition allegations of widespread cheating, Cambodia's election authorities have finally released preliminary results handing victory to long serving prime minister Hun Sen.

But the fallout may be widening, with Cambodia halting military cooperation programs with the Unite States and Australia.

Liam Cochrane reports.

(Footage of tanks on the road)

LIAM COCHRANE, REPORTER: The recent sight of troops heading for Cambodia's capital has chilling historical echoes.

(Footage of Khmer Rouge entering Phnom Penh in 1975 is shown)

SON CHHAY, CAMBODIAN OPPOSITION CHIEF: Remind them of the Khmer Rouge period in 1975 when the Khmer Rouge won the war and they brought all these soldiers into the city.

LIAM COCHRANE: While the forced evacuation of Phnom Penh by the Khmer Rouge marked the beginning of Cambodia's darkest days, this time people are leaving of their own Accord.

SON CHHAY: The people very scared. We find about 30 per cent of factory workers decided to go back to their village.

LIAM COCHRANE: Prime minister Hun Sen has called in military reinforcements to deal with possible opposition protests. At issue is the result of last month's election. The ruling Cambodia People's Party says it won 68 seats in Cambodia's 123 seat National Assembly.

But the opposition, Cambodian National Rescue Party, says widespread cheating left 1 million people disenfranchised.

SAM RAINSY, CAMBODIAN OPPOSITION LEADER (translation): We expressed great disappointment and have decided to reject the temporary result of the election announced by the national election committee.

LIAM COCHRANE: Initial talks between the two main parties gave some hope an independent body might be formed to investigate allegations of fraud.

The opposition says names were removed from the electoral list, people voted in place of others, and voting station tallies were changed.

A local election watchdog says that paper trail means the truth can be found.

KOUL PANHA, COMFREL: We can verify with them. It's very the fact is the number is easy.

LIAM COCHRANE: But the ruling party has since backed away from local independent groups or the United Nations being involved in an investigation. Many are wondering whether the CNRP will take to the streets in protest.

(Footage of rally shows)

This small rally in Phnom Penh offered prayers for the peaceful resolution to the political tensions.

MALE DEMONSTRATOR: We're really concerned with the recent lead that the government mobilised the troops inside the country.

FEMALE DEMONSTRATOR (translation): I've come here to pray for peace in my country because the political situation is currently under pressure.

(Footage of protesters being doused by water cannon)

LIAM COCHRANE: But a big protest by the opposition is not without risk. Cambodia has routinely used excessive force to deal with peaceful demonstrations.

Cambodian government spokesman, Pasapa (phonetic).

PASAPA, CAMBODIAN GOVERNMENT SPOKESMAN (subtitled): The threat by the opposition party, the CNRP, it doesn't help, because the Cambodian people, as a majority, they don't support that one. So, you see, the message from Facebook and the media is that they don't support the demonstration for power.

LIAM COCHRANE: The government says its use of the military as potential crowd control is a technical matter.

PASAPA (subtitled): Because in Cambodia we do not have horses or dogs, as they use in the United States. We don't design a weapon to deal with a civil riot. So this is a kind of preventative measure.

LIAM COCHRANE: Internationally, the reaction to Cambodia's election and the allegations of fraud have been muted. Some US lawmakers have suggested American aid money to Cambodia be cut. But Cambodia has made the first move.

MARIE HARF, DEPUTY SPOKESPERSON, US STATE DEPARTMENT: Following the elections, the Cambodian Ministry of Defence postponed or cancelled a number of international military programs including with the United States.

LIAM COCHRANE: Cambodia has also postponed two cooperation programs with the Australian Defence Force in counter terrorism and maritime security.

The Australian Defence Force says other programs continue as normal.

PASAPA (subtitled): We don't want to see an influence from another country, as a foreign country, interfere with our decisions, our people's decisions.

(Footage of protest march is shown)

LIAM COCHRANE: For the opposition, the violence in Egypt and Syria has reminded them of the risks of going against powerful forces.

Prime minister Hun Sen has ruled Cambodia since the mid 80s and shows no signs of ceding power any time soon, crushing opponents with force or through Cambodia's corrupt courts.

A change of government in Cambodia is highly unlikely but the huge swing towards the opposition has sent a message to Hun Sen and the CPP. The question now is concession or crackdown?

KOUL PANHA: We hope they will work hard for the next few days. Because everybody aware that the mobility of the soldiers and with heavy gun and weapons is not the solution. It's the wrong solution.
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