Japan goes shy on Khmer poll flaws
Cambodia's general election on July 29 concluded with a sharp controversy. Skeptical voter turnout, a number of spoilt ballots, election boycotts and a sweeping victory by the ruling Cambodian People Party (CPP) appeared in international media headlines. Shortly after the National Election Committee (NEC) announced the preliminary result, the US, the European Union, the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Germany expressed concern that the election was neither free nor fair and failed to justify the spirit of democracy in the absence of the banned opposition party, the Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP).
As Western countries quickly condemned the flawed election, and the US even explicitly said it would consider further sanctions, it took Japan -- one of the most prominent democratic countries in Asia and a key donor of Cambodia -- almost a week to break its silence.
Japan's Foreign Minister Taro Kono expressed his concerns over the nature of the election in Cambodia when meeting his Cambodian counterpart Prak Sokhon on Aug 4 in Singapore. Even though Japan finally said something, the lateness of Japan's reaction constitutes its reluctant diplomacy. It seems that Japan might not want to move, but circumstances might have forced Japan to do so.
Researcher at the Democracy Promotion Centre
Sek Sophal is a researcher at the Democracy Promotion Centre, the Ritsumeikan Centre for Asia Pacific Studies in Beppu, Japan. He is also a contributor to The Bangkok Post