Supreme Court 16 Nov dissolved opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) and banned more than 100 CNRP members from politics for five years, ending party opposition to PM Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) ahead of general election scheduled for July 2018. CPP-led govt filed suit in Oct alleging that CNRP attempted to overthrow govt in U.S.-backed plot. EU 16 Nov announced it will review Cambodia’s eligibility for preferential trade access under its “everything-but-arms” scheme; U.S. Senate unanimously passed resolution calling on Treasury and State departments to consider targeted sanctions on senior Cambodian officials. White House issued statement saying: “On current course, next year’s election will not be legitimate, free or fair” and announced end to U.S. support for Cambodian National Election Committee. Beijing 17 Nov said China supported Cambodia as it pursues its own development path. Interior ministry 20 Nov confirmed that some civil society groups and their members are being monitored. Hun Sen warned that Cambodian Center for Human Rights, founded by jailed former CNRP President Kem Sokha, should be closed down for “following foreigners”.
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