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ASEAN Calls for Fair Cambodia Vote

July 24, 1998

MANILA, Philippines (AP) _ Cambodia’s election must be free and fair if the country is to join the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, ASEAN foreign ministers stressed Friday at their annual meeting.

``We are watching very carefully the political process that will culminate in general elections a few days from now,″ Indonesian Foreign Minister Ali Alatas said in a speech.

``It is essential for the credibility of this process that all parties have equal access to the media and that it is free, fair and peaceful so that it will lead to the creation of a stable government that can ensure lasting peace and stability for the Cambodian people.″

If the process goes well, Cambodia can become the 10th member of ASEAN, Alatas, Thai Foreign Minister Surin Pitsuwan and other ministers said.

Cambodia had been scheduled to join ASEAN in July 1997. But ASEAN postponed its entry because of a coup that month by co-prime minister Hun Sen. ASEAN then formed a three-nation task force comprised of Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines to press for a return to political stability in Cambodia.

But widespread violence and intimidation against the political opposition have led many critics to wonder whether Sunday’s election can be fair.

ASEAN diplomats said the problems that have occurred since the entry last year of military-ruled Myanmar into the regional group have made it more cautious about the admission of Cambodia. ASEAN has been criticized by other nations for its acceptance of Myanmar because of that country’s poor human rights record.

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