Mr. Speaker, on Sunday, February 3, Cambodia held its first local elections. Over 1,000 foreign observers were present for this historic event, which represents one more step towards the introduction of real democracy in this country, which has been ravaged by more than two decades of dictatorship and civil war.
Cambodia's local elections are a step in the direction of increased representation of the rural population, which accounts for almost 85% of the country's 11 million inhabitants. Preliminary results indicate that Prime Minister Hun Sen's Cambodian People's Party won a majority in the 76 communes.
However, these results are disputed by human rights defence groups, which have noted irregularities. In addition, the election campaign was punctuated by violence, with eight candidates and a dozen activists losing their lives. The Cambodian government will therefore have to work to improve the safety and transparency of the next elections.
For its part, the international community must pursue its efforts to help the Cambodian people build a modern and democratic state.