Election commission 15 Aug announced official results confirming ruling Cambodian People’s Party’s sweep of all 125 seats in July election. U.S. same day announced expansion of restrictions on visas for Cambodian officials it deems responsible for what it called “anti-democratic actions taken in the run-up to the flawed July 29 election”. Govt pardoned almost two dozen prisoners in second half of month in perceived attempt to appease external critics, including former lawmaker, two former Radio Free Asia journalists, jailed Oct 2017 on espionage charges, and fourteen govt critics, most former members of dissolved opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) convicted in 2014. Supreme Court 22 Aug denied bail to jailed CNRP leader Kem Sokha, arrested Sept 2017 on charges of treason and yet to be tried. Fourteen former CRNP members pardoned 27 Aug after three years in jail.
The violent border clashes between Thailand and Cambodia earlier this year have challenged the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) to turn its rhetoric into action, but to achieve peace and security more robust diplomacy is required to end a still unresolved conflict.
Almost a decade after the 1991 Paris Peace Agreements, Cambodia is at peace and the government is at last secure enough to contemplate the trials of some Khmer Rouge leaders.
The international community collectively heaved a sigh of relief when Cambodia’s rival factions moved back from the brink of disaster and agreed to form a fresh coalition government in November 1998 after weeks of violent protests and political deadlock.
Cambodia’s electoral process re-lit the candle of democracy that had first flickered into flame with the restoration of peace in 1991, after more than two decades of strife.
Cambodia is set to take to the polls in barely six weeks time, with some fearing the elections will cement in place a de facto dictatorship and others seeing them as the last chance to ensure that the country’s fledgling democratic process remains on track.
Originally published in The Jakarta Post