Cambodian PM says he welcomes any election fraud probe

Cambodian PM says he welcomes any election fraud probe

PHNOM PENH - Cambodia's strongman Prime Minister Hun Sen said Wednesday he would welcome any investigation into claims of fraud in hotly disputed polls and was open to dialogue with the opposition.

His ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) on Sunday claimed it had secured an estimated 68 of the 123 lower house seats, shading the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) which won 55.

The CNRP has rejected the results, alleging it was robbed of victory by widespread voting irregularities, and has vowed to press for nationwide protests unless a probe is launched.

In a conciliatory public appearance -- his first since the election -- Hun Sen, whose party was chastened by its worst poll results since 1998, voiced support for a probe into the fraud accusations.

"If NEC (the National Election Committee) think it is necessary for the political parties and civil society organisations to participate in the process, the government and CPP welcome this in order to show transparency and to have a resolution that everyone can accept," he said.

The CNRP has already called for a United Nations-backed investigation into allegations that 1.25 million legitimate voters were culled from the electoral roll, while more than one million "ghost names" and a further 200,000 duplicated names were added to the list.

Its leader Sam Rainsy told AFP on Wednesday that his party had won a majority of 63 seats and repeated a vow to prevent the CPP "stealing victory".

Hun Sen did not address the matter of the UN's possible involvement in the probe.

He told reporters the election was a "victory of our nation" and his party was ready to talk with the opposition.

"We (CPP) are ready to open for discussion between the political parties that hold seats in the parliament," Hun Sen said.

"I think the political parties will surely make a compromise, it is unavoidable... we open our hearts to compromise to set up the parliament so that our country will have full democracy," he added.

Rainsy has threatened to call a nationwide protest against the victory of Hun Sen's CPP if his demand for the investigation is not met.

He insists fair polls would have seen the ruling party ousted from power

The 60-year-old Hun Sen -- a former Khmer Rouge cadre who defected from the murderous regime -- has vowed to rule until he is 74.

He oversaw Cambodia's transformation from a nation devastated by the "Killing Fields" genocidal era in the late 1970s to become one of Southeast Asia's most vibrant economies.

The premier -- who has been in power for 28 years -- is regularly accused of ignoring human rights and muzzling political freedoms.

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