THE decision to leave Cambodia’s seat at the United Nations indefinitely vacant marks the biggest blow to Hun Sen’s bid for international legitimacy since he seized power in July, according to diplomats and other political observers. While Prince Norodom Ranariddh also failed to secure the seat, the UN impasse effectively puts the screws on Hun Sen to compromise his tough stance against his exiled co-Prime Minister, analysts said.
It also fuels the growing international belief that national elections are the best way to resolve Cambodia’s political predicament- with the UN seat potentially remaining up-for-grabs if those elections are not seen to be at least somewhat free and fair. While the full diplomatic, aid and investment consequences of the UN decision are yet to become clear, several Phnom Penh diplomats and observers agreed that Hun Sen had suffered a “slap in the face” which could further destabilize Cambodian politics and economics. Following on the heels of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) postponement of Cambodia’s admission to the regional grouping, the Second Prime Minister is now further isolated.
In a surprise move, the UN Credentials Committee – charged with assigning UN seats to delegations from member countries – decided Sept 19 to award Cambodia’s seat to neither of two rival delegations representing Ranariddh and the new Ung Huot-Hun Sen government.