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Thayer Cambodia's National Elections: China, the United States and Vietnam

Thayer Cambodia's National Elections: China, the United States and Vietnam

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Published by Carlyle Alan Thayer
Four assessments of political developments after Cambodia's July 28 national elections: Hun Sen's call on the Chinese Ambassador; Hun Sen's dare for the U.S. to cut off its aid; Sam Rainsy's anti-Vietnamese racism; and China's role in Cambodia if the opposition takes government.
Four assessments of political developments after Cambodia's July 28 national elections: Hun Sen's call on the Chinese Ambassador; Hun Sen's dare for the U.S. to cut off its aid; Sam Rainsy's anti-Vietnamese racism; and China's role in Cambodia if the opposition takes government.

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Published by: Carlyle Alan Thayer on Aug 17, 2013
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09/12/2013

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Background Briefing:Cambodia: First Stop for HunSen - Chinese EmbassyCarlyle A. ThayerAugust 1, 2013
[client name deleted]We request your assessment of the issues listed below in preparation for an analysiswe intend to release tomorrow.Q1. Hun Sen met with the Chinese ambassador this morning, his first diplomatic
meeting since Sunday’s election, and I’d like to get your thoughts on this for a piece
tomorrow: In
general, what’s the significance of Hun Sen’s decision to meet with
China first?ANSWER: There are two possible reasons for Hun Sen's meeting with the ChineseAmbassador immediately after Cambodia's national elections. First, Hun Sen willseek continued reassurances of Chinese support. Second, Hun Sen is sending a signalto his domestic and foreign critics that they can pressure him all they want over theconduct of the election but the CPP regime has China's backing.Q2. How much do you think it has to do with Hun Sen seeking reassurance that Chinais behind him as the post-election negotiations progress?ANSWER: China has a lot a stake in stability in Cambodia, including securing itsinvestments and soft loans. Hun Sen will want to reassure China that he is capable of handling the political confrontation with the opposition. And Hun Sen will seekreassurance that China will continue to back his regime.
Q3. What do you think China’s take on the elections is?
 ANSWER: Generally China does not comment publicly on internal developments inother states other than take note of them. China will also back a peaceful settlementof disputes. Privately China will be concerned at the swing to the Opposition becauseit is likely to be critical of China. China will also be concerned over any instability thatcould affect Chinese residents or Chinese investments in Cambodia.Q4. Is China likely to try and exert much influence on how things play out, and bywhat means? What sort of advice is China likely to be giving Hun Sen?ANSWER: China will be very subtle about exercising its influence lest it produce abacklash. China will be more concerned to monitor any negotiations between theCPP and the Opposition for signs that China's interests may be negatively affected.
Thayer Consultancy
ABN # 65 648 097 123
 
2
Privately China will offer whatever support is necessary to assist its clients in the CPPregime stay in power.Q5. Only days after the election, China handed over 1,000 handguns and 50,000bullets to the police. At the risk of reading too much into this, do you think it wasmeant to send a message?ANSWER: The message China wishes to convey is that it supports the CPP regime asthe legitimate government in Cambodia and is willing to assist in areas wherewestern countries are reticent.Q6. And with Sam Rainsy having his first post-election visit with the U.S. ambassador,to what extent are these elections shaping up to be at least partially a tug of warbetween the two superpowers?ANSWER: Sam Rainsy will continue to seek support from the U.S. and Europeannations for his allegations that the elections were not free and fair. His visit with theU.S. Ambassador is a signal that Sam Rainsy too has powerful external friends. HunSen can expect China's support against U.S. interference in Cambodia's internalaffairs. The U.S., through Hillary Clinton, has already warned Cambodia of leaningtoo much on China. The U.S. will be more concerned to see that charges of electionirregularities are fairly investigated than the fact of China's continuing influence overthe Hun Sen regime.Suggested citat
ion: Carlyle A. Thayer, “
Cambodia: First Stop for Hun Sen - ChineseEmbassy
,”
Thayer Consultancy Background Brief 
, August 1, 2013. All backgroundbriefs are posted on Scribd.com (search for Thayer). To remove yourself from themailing list type UNSUBSCRIBE in the Subject heading and hit the Reply key.Thayer Consultancy provides political analysis of current regional security issues andother research support to selected clients. Thayer Consultancy was officiallyregistered as a small business in Australia in 2002.
 
 
Background Briefing:
Cambodia: Hun Sen’s Dares U.S.Congress to “Cut It Off”
 Carlyle A. ThayerAugust 4, 2013
[client name deleted]We request your views on some comments Hun Sen made over the weekendresponding to the recent discussions in Washington about cutting off aid toCambodia. Hun Sen said, "If you're brave enough, cut it off," and went on to refer tothe time the US halted a shipment of military trucks to protest the deportation of those Uighur refugees, only to have China step in with a shipment twice as large.We request your assessment of the following:Q1. As far as you can recall, is this the most explicit threat that Hun Sen has made toturn to China entirely if the US doesn't mind its own business?
ANSWER: Hun Sen has alluded to China’s no strings attached aid in the past to
indicate that there are alternatives to American aid. But his dare to the US Congressto enact aid cuts is the most direct threat he has made.Q2. And how serious do you think that threat is, both in terms of whether Hun Senwill follow through, and in terms of what it will mean for Cambodia if he does?
ANSWER: Hun Sen’s dare to the US Congress reflects his personal belief that he is in
command of Cambodia and can maintain independence from foreign interference.
Hun Sen’s remarks will only make the matter worse for Cambodia. If the Congress
imposes conditions on aid, Hun Sen is likely to reject it. Hun Sen is unlikely to rejectUS aid in the absence of what he views as a provocation.
Hun Sen’s rejection of US aid will further polarize Cambodian society. The Opposition
looks to the US for support and will make this a political issue. China will also beemboldened
to step in with a “I told you so” m
essage to other countries that receiveUS aid.US aid cuts have to be smart, aid could still be channeled to NGOs.Q3. What concrete impact would losing US aid have on Cambodia -- that is, whatprograms would be most affected, who would suffer, etc.?ANSWER: The US provides about $70 million in total aid. This money goes todemocracy and governance programs, food security, environmental protection,education and health (HIV/AIDS and malaria). Cuts here would impact on the mostvulnerable and marginalized members of Cambodian society.
Thayer Consultancy
ABN # 65 648 097 123

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