The timing was remarkable. On the same day that Cambodia’s opposition party declared that it had actually won last Sunday’s fraud-ridden election. China handed over 1,000 handguns and 50,000 bullets to the country’s General Commissariat of Police.
Sam Rainsy’s Cambodian National Rescue Party is claiming 63 seats in the 123 seat parliament, eight more than preliminary 55 that the government controlled National Election Commission gave it in its preliminary results. An official result will not be made available until mid-August.
The NEC has been slammed for the multiple-irregularities in the election which included ghost voters that number in the hundreds of thousands, people who were unable to vote – the opposition claims as many as 15 per cent of voters, people registered in multiple booths and people paid to vote by the government.
China will be furious if somehow Rainsy – popular in the United States and Europe – ascends to government.
The country’s Prime Minister-cum-dictator Hun Sen – who has run the country with an iron fist and wide open pockets for the past 28 years – has agreed to back an international investigation into the election, breaking four days of silence after the election. Quite who will carry out the probe is yet to be announced.
Whichever way the result finally falls Hun’s Cambodian People’s Party has been rocked to its core by its plummeting support, particularly in rural Cambodia where it has become intertwined with the state in a way that is similar to the Communist Party in China. Brad Adams, Human Rights Watch Asia director, said “Senior ruling party officials appear to have been involved in issuing fake election documents and fraudulently registering voters in multiple provinces,”
Despite the best efforts of the CNRP to dispute the National Electoral Commission’s results, local observers believe it is highly unlikely that Hun Sen will lose control of the country. Regardless of any independent enquiries finding’s, the opposition can’t be certain it has the votes of Hun’s 10,000 man private guard.
Cambodia is China’s best ally in the fast-growing Association of South East Asian Nations, having kyboshed a deal amongst the group’s 10 members to unite against China’s audacious claim to the entire South China Sea. Oil and gas hungry China is in dispute with seven neighbours over largely uninhabited rocks beneath which there are substantial energy resources. Meanwhile, on the other side of Thailand gas began to flow this week through the long planned and much panned pipeline from Myanmar to the sprawling landlocked southern Chinese province of Yunnan.
Myanmar’s “opening up project” now two and a half years in, is very much aimed at loosening the control China exerted over the country by inviting investment from others. Neighbours India and Thailand have both dived in with major projects along with the US and major European nations, notably Italy. Japan and South Korea, which had been investors before international sanctions began to be imposed in the 1990s, were quick to buy in.
Regardless China will take all the oil and gas Myanmar can pipe out, billions of dollars of revenue, not to mention China will remain this beggar nation’s biggest investor. While the relationship has cooled, it remains strong. Should Sam Rainsy ascend to high office, it’s likely what he has to look forward to.