World’s longest-ruling leader looks set to secure new term after 43 years in power.
Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen on Sunday said he was committed to the “transition” to democracy, the BBC reports.
Prime Minister Hun Sen said he wanted to “complete our work to become a constitutional monarchy… [and] win our legitimate demands for the release of our political prisoners,” the BBC reported.
But he said it was up to the Cambodian people to decide their future, saying he believed “publicly to speak out on behalf of the people, we will also accept the decision of the people.”
The BBC’s Jonny Dymond in Phnom Penh said Hun Sen has previously made similar promises and that he had been “quite frank” about his desire for the country’s “transitional democratic regime.”
In a statement, the US State Department said it respected his right to express his opinion and had “no further comment on the matter.”
But in a sign of the deepening political rift and international protests that are roiling Cambodia, Hun Sen said there was increasing “criticism from abroad” and the country’s relations with its neighbors would be reviewed.
Cambodia’s long-time ruler, who has ruled for more than half a century, has presided over a country that has been divided by a bloody rivalry between the Khmer Rouge and government forces.
‘Threats of violence’
The BBC’s Michael Bristed in Phnom Penh says the military has not yet formally endorsed Hun Sen’s calls for elections and has said the ruling party supports his government’s rule.
But military chief Gen. Sar Kheng said on Sunday that he “couldn’t confirm” Hun Sen’s comments that the military was ready to “respect democracy.”
Hun Sen has led Cambodia for 42 years. (CBC)
“The Cambodian Armed Forces will not allow any internal or external threats of violence to mar Cambodian sovereignty or independence,” he said.
The country has been gripped by unrest since April, when thousands of people took to the streets to denounce Hun Sen and demand the ouster of his government.
Protesters have been calling for Hun Sen’s ouster for months and the United Nations is to hold a special meeting to discuss the protests and the country’s future on Monday.