PM Hun Sen’s crackdown on dissent, launched in August, continued, with civil society groups, unions, NGOs and media facing increasing pressure and harassment from authorities, prompting further international condemnation. U.S. 7 Dec announced visa restrictions on officials it deems involved in “undermining democracy”; UN special rapporteur on human rights called for end to pressure on civil society and restoration of multiparty democracy; EU 12 Dec suspended funding for general election scheduled for July 2018. Electoral commission late Dec said China had committed to provide equipment for July election following withdrawal of EU and U.S. support. U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Southeast Asia Patrick Murphy visited Phnom Penh 13 Dec, did not meet with any ministers; said still time for govt to reverse course and hold free and fair general election; denied allegations by PM Hun Sen and other senior officials that U.S. backed plot to bring down Cambodian govt. European Parliament 14 Dec passed resolution urging European External Action Service and European Commission to consider visa sanctions and freezing assets of officials involved in dissolution of opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP). Ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) early Dec claimed 90% of dissolved CNRP’s 5,007 seats at commune level, now holds over 95% of seats at commune level. Govt late Nov pressured former CNRP members at commune level to join CPP; Hun Sen urged party members to “break the legs” of defunct CNRP.
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