Thursday, May 23, 2013

Exiled Cambodian leader prays for democracy

An exiled Cambodian opposition leader says it's time for Australia to step up and play a bigger role in securing democracy in the country.

The opposition leader of Cambodia, Sam Rainsy, has called on Australia to do more to promote democracy in his country.  

Cambodia is scheduled to hold National elections in July, but opposition groups say they will not be free and fair unless Mr Rainsy is able to run.    

Mr Rainsy, who lives in exile in France to avoid prison, is barred from running in the polls due to a series of convictions that the opposition says are politically motivated.  

He's asking Australia to help the democratic process in Cambodia.  

"We look up to Australia as a model of democracy in the region, and we value Australia's leadership," says Mr Rainsy.

Mr Rainsy has survived assassination attempts and years of exile.

But his commitment to democracy has never waivered.

"It's an uphill battle. We have to fight against a powerful, a very powerful, force."

He says that's the desire of the Cambodian population in Australia, too.

Many came to Australia during the height of the Pol Pot regime and few thought they would ever see a dramatic political change in their homeland.

"No, I never thought it's like what we have here," says Darin Men at the Khmer Temple in Canberra.

But Cambodia's pro-democracy movement is growing.

Earlier this week, demonstrations in capital Phnom Pen drew 5000 protesters.

They called on the President to relinquish his authoritarian regime.

The Cambodian Ambassador in Canberra declined SBS's request for an interview. 

President Hun Sen has reaffirmed his commitment to holding a ballot in July in line with electoral laws.

Professor Benjamin Reilly was an electoral monitor in Cambodia's 1993 election.

He doubts July's election will be free from corruption.

"They've never been free and fair, there are very significant restrictions on opposition movements, a lot of intimidation. It's a long way from being a democracy," says Professor Reilly.

He wants the government to speak up about human rights in neighbouring countries.

"We don't have a very good track record on this one," he says.-World News Australia

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