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Friday, August 01, 2008

Richard Marles Witnesses Cambodian Democracy

INTERNATIONAL WATCH: Corio MP Richard Marles led an Australian delegation observing the recent Cambodian election.

Richard Marles Witnesses Cambodian Democracy

MEMBER for Corio Richard Marles has returned from observing Cambodian general elections confident democracy is moving forward.

Mr Marles said troubling issues remained in the country 15 years on from its first elections but people's pride in the democratic process was clear.

"It's fair to say Cambodia still has a way to go to becoming a fully democratic country," Mr Marles said.

"But having said that, from an optimistic point of view and Australia's point of view, which is important given its investment in the country, they're making progress."

Mr Marles led an Australian delegation including MPs Mark Coulton, Nola Marino and Senator Rachel Siewert.

They were part of a 17,000-strong team of local and international people who monitored the election, won by Prime Minister Hun Sen with a sweeping majority.

International observers said the election process fell short of international standards.

Mr Marles said the Australian Government had pointed to areas of concern.

A journalist who wrote a scathing comment about Hun Sen was murdered a few days later along with his son and, in a separate incident, a newspaper editor was jailed for comment.

"I guess the extent of the use or support of the public service for the ruling party was also a concern, and they are concerns Australia has raised with the Cambodian Government," Mr Marles said.

He said he found the visit emotionally moving as the group spent time at Cambodia's killing fields and noted that trials of Khmer Rouge leaders were still under way.

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