Editorial Notes

Japan has a role to play in Cambodia's future: The Yomiuri Shimbun

Men hold Cambodian and Japanese flags during the inauguration ceremony of National Road No. 1, which was built with aid from Japan, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on March 13, 2018.
Men hold Cambodian and Japanese flags during the inauguration ceremony of National Road No. 1, which was built with aid from Japan, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on March 13, 2018.PHOTO: REUTERS

In its editorial, the paper says that Japan should use its good relationship with Cambodia to improve the latter's situation and stability in the country.

TOKYO (The YOMIURI SHIMBUN/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Prior to the July general election for the National Assembly - a lower house election - the administration of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen is intensifying its crackdown on opposition parties.

Japan must tenaciously work on the administration to improve the situation by utilising its good relationship with the country.

Party registration will start in late April for the general election.

There is a strong probability that the election will be held with effectively no opposition parties taking part.

In November last year, the Supreme Court ordered the dissolution of the Cambodia National Rescue Party, the largest opposition party.

More than 100 senior members of the party were banned from conducting political activities for five years, making them unable to take part in the elections for the country's Senate in February.

The leader of the opposition party has been detained on suspicion of treason.

Prime Minister Hun Sen has been in power for more than three decades.

It is obvious that he has embarked on openly smashing opposition parties, in a bid to assure his ruling party's victory in the general election.

The Cambodia National Rescue Party widened its support among voters in the previous general election - held five years ago - by denouncing the corruption of the Hun Sen administration.

In the race, the party won nearly as many seats as taken by the Cambodian People's Party led by Hun Sen, and it also made a strong showing in the local elections held in June last year.

The crackdown has spread even to the press.

A leading English-language newspaper seen as critical of the government was ordered to pay a sizable amount of taxes and was later driven to shut down.

Other media outlets have also been shut down one after another.

The people's wishes will not be adequately reflected in an election where opposition forces have been eliminated.

Even if the ruling party has an overwhelming victory, it cannot be seen as the administration having won the people's confidence, which may not lead to political stability in the long run.

It is worrisome that China supports the series of measures taken by the Cambodian government.

Lying behind Hun Sen's heavy-handed politics is undoubtedly increased support from China, on both the political and economic fronts.

China has become the biggest aid donor to Cambodia, surpassing Japan in 2010.

China probably aims at gaining a foothold in Cambodia, in its attempt to expand its influence on the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

Hun Sen, for his part, has taken the standpoint of siding with China regarding, for instance, the territorial disputes over the South China Sea and has blocked Aseabn from releasing any statement that condemns China.

The U.S. government expressed "deep concern" regarding the Hun Sen administration and suspended its military assistance and other aid programs.

Should European countries and the United States sever connections with Cambodia, the country may further increase its dependence on China.

Keeping its distance from European countries and the United States, Japan continues extending its support for elections, such as the provision of ballot boxes, and its economic cooperation.

This can be considered as an appropriate response, also to put the brakes on China's whittling away at Asean.

After the end of the Cambodian Civil War, an election for a constituent assembly for the country was held in 1993 under the auspices of the United Nations, with Japan conducting ceasefire monitoring and extending electoral assistance.

Japan dispatched its first full-scale U.N. peacekeeping operations unit as well as civilian police officers and other personnel to the country, thus having also been deeply involved with Cambodia's reconstruction in the following years.

Considering its special relationship with Cambodia, Japan should continue contributing to the country's stability.

The Yomiuri Shimbun is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, an alliance of 23 news media entities.