Cambodia’s opposition party is calling on Australia to lead an investigation into that country’s elections, which were marred by allegations of corruption and political violence.
Cambodian opposition leader Sam Rainsy is in Canberra with two of his MPs trying to drum up support for an inquiry into Cambodia’s electoral commission and claims of irregularities in last July’s poll.
He will meet with Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop on Wednesday to ask the government to front an international campaign to “restore democracy” in the Southeast Asian nation.
“Australia is well placed to take such a lead to help Cambodia,” he told reporters in Canberra on Tuesday.
“Australia is, in our eyes, a model of democracy in this part of the world.”
He recalled the prominent role Australia played in the signing of the Paris Peace Accords in 1991, which helped Cambodia transition towards democracy after the genocidal horror of the Pol Pot years.
But he said the path to full democratic reform had derailed since then, and major reforms to the electoral commission and a fresh poll were needed to get it back on track.
Last year’s election was tarnished by claims ink used in the poll washed off, and that some people were preventing from voting while others cast double ballots.
Mr Rainsy’s Cambodia National Rescue Party won 55 seats in parliament, but the ruling Cambodian People’s Party led by Prime Minister Hun Sen secured 68 seats in contested circumstances.
Ms Bishop raised Australia’s concerns about political violence and human rights violations in Cambodia when she met with Prime Minister Sen in Phnom Penh last month.
She couldn’t meet with Mr Rainsy, and suggested instead they meet in Canberra.
The Australian Greens have suggested the $85 million in Australian aid slated for Cambodia this financial year could be withheld unless democratic reforms were made.
Greens leader Christine Milne said Australia wouldn’t be alone in pushing for a UN inquiry, as the US and European Union had also expressed concerns about the fledging democracy.
“Australia could really be a leading light and show to the world that we do have some interest in democracy and human rights in the region,” Ms Milne said in Canberra.