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Australia told ‘butt out’ of Cambodia election

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CAMBODIA’S ruling party officials have told Australia, among the country’s largest donors, not to interfere in national elections on July 29, dismissing calls that the ballot should not be recognised.

“We don’t follow foreign orders,” Phay Siphan, a spokesman for Cambodia’s Council of Ministers, told the independent online news service Thmey Thmey.

Mr Siphan singled out comments by Julie Heckscher, first assistant secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s Southeast Asia division, earlier this year regarding the elections that he said were not helpful and did not reflect the Australian government’s attitude to Cambodia.

“Besides, we have our own legislation and institutions,” he said, adding Cambodia would abide by its laws.

In March, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen was met by a storm of protests during an ASEAN summit in Sydney after he threatened to beat protesters if they burned his image.

Ms Heckscher was among his critics, telling a Senate committee in Canberra “that threats on Australian soil are not acceptable to the Australian government”.

Politicians and diplomats have rebuked Cambodia in the lead up to the poll, following the dissolution by the courts of the Cambodian National Rescue Party, the only political outfit capable of challenging Mr Sen’s three-decade rule.

Some have called for Australia not to recognise the poll and follow a lead set by the United States where congressmen have introduced the Cambodian Democracy Act of 2018, calling for sanctions and a travel ban on senior officials travelling to America.

Mr Siphan said he did not expect ties to become strained after the poll while Thmey Thmey also reported that Sok Eysan, spokesmen for the ruling Cambodian Peoples Party, had mocked Khmer-Australians who want to see sanctions imposed.

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