Japan won’t be sending election monitors to Cambodia

Posted by: | Posted on: July 25, 2018

Japan won’t be sending election monitors to Cambodia

Op-Ed: Reuters Japan

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan said on Wednesday it will not be sending election monitors to Cambodia for a general election this weekend, although Tokyo – a major donor to the Southeast Asian nation – has sent such observers for numerous elections in the past.

freedom is not free 1 Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen is on course to extend his 33 years in power after the main opposition party was dissolved last year and following a crackdown on dissent, including civil society and independent media, prompting criticism by some that the election is a sham.

Cambodia announced on Tuesday that as many as 220 observers from 52 countries would monitor Sunday’s general elections.

Japan sent election monitors to Cambodian elections in 1993, 1998, 2003 and 2008, but Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said it would not be doing so this time.

He did not give further details but noted that Japan was providing purely “practical” assistance.

“We’ve taken various opportunities to express our concerns and call on them to improve the situation,” he told an afternoon news conference, when asked about Japan’s stance on Cambodia’s human rights situation.

“In order to ensure the trust of the electoral process, we have sent experts and provided machines and technical assistance. We have supported election reform in this way.”

A Japanese foreign ministry official said Japan had made the decision after they considered the situation surrounding the Cambodian election.

The election has been criticized by the United Nations and Western countries as fundamentally flawed after last year’s dissolution of the main opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) and the imprisonment of its leader, Kem Sokha.

Human rights activists gave Japan’s move mixed reviews.

“It’s heartening that Tokyo finally woke up to the reality that it’s not worth Japan’s time or reputation to formally send election monitors to observe a Cambodian election…in which the major opposition party is barred from participating,” said Kanae Doi, Human Rights Watch Japan Director.

“Had they gone, Japan’s observers likely would have been used as propaganda by the Cambodian government to cynically justify an election which will be neither genuine, nor free and fair.”

But Doi said Japan could still do more.

“Japan should still act now to freeze any ongoing assistance to the biased National Election Commission, and prepare a post-election statement that will take a hard line in pointing out the fundamental flaws in the election,” she added.

Reporting by Mari Saito, Writing by Elaine Lies; Editing by Jacqueline Wong

Summary of Critical News on Cambodia Election 29 July 2018

Posted by: | Posted on: July 24, 2018

On July 22, 2018, The Irrawaddy published a news on corruption among the arm-force elites, adding to “Cambodia’s Dirty Dozens” by HRW and recently translated by VOA into Khmer, The Irrawaddy pinpointed the closest link of General Pol Saroeun in millions of mining corporation. Tax evasion and hiding conflict of interests are most important that the General has been conducting in Cambodia.

A tangled web

The Paradise Papers reveal that Uddor Meanchey Mining was set up in the Cayman Islands to play a key role in what could have been a multimillion dollar project to turn Sidara’s coal mine into the main supplier of a planned power plant that would sell electricity to Cambodia, Thailand and back to the mine to keep it running.

The leaked records, reviewed by The Irrawaddy, include emails and documents ranging from share purchase and transfer agreements to certificates of incorporation, directors resolutions, legal opinions, checklists, client lists and invoices — all prepared by or shared with the offshore law firm Appleby.

According to the records, a joint development agreement setting the project in motion was struck in June 2007. The partners included two Cambodian companies, EuroAsia Power and Rexwell Engineering Cambodia; another Caymans firm, AEI Asia; and Rexwell Engineering Limited, registered in Guernsey, a British crown dependency in the English Channel with its own reputation as a tax haven. Appleby was AEI’s legal counsel.

The plans called for Sidara to transfer the license for her coal mine to EuroAsia Power, which she also held shares in, according to the Cambodian Commerce Ministry’s business register. EuroAsia Power would then dig up and ship the coal to a 2,400-MW power plant to be built, owned and operated by Rexwell Engineering Cambodia near the mine.

The two Cambodian companies would operate as subsidiaries of holding companies set up in the Cayman Islands.

The plan was to have all shares in EuroAsia Power transferred to Uddor Meanchey Mining. All shares in Rexwell Engineering Cambodia would be transferred to another company also registered in the Caymans, Uddor Meanchey Power Holdings. Together, the two offshore companies would own the mine and plant.

The chart illustrates the connections between the main companies involved in Noup Sidara’s offshore venture, including her shares in Uddor Meanchey Mining Holdings, which was registered in the Cayman Islands from 2007 to 2012. Most of the other companies have also since been dissolved. Ratanak Stone Cambodia Development remains registered in Cambodia. / Sources: Paradise Papers; Cambodia Commerce Ministry; Global Witness

Among the directors both Uddor Meanchey holding companies appointed was the affiliate of another Guernsey firm, the Sarnia Management Corporation.

On its website, Sarnia Management offers to help “wealthy individuals and their families with flexible and bespoke approaches to protect and manage their assets” with the aid of “jurisdictions and relationships all around the world.” The 2016 Panama Papers, an earlier leak of offshore financial records, named Sarnia Management as an intermediary for more than 200 offshore companies, many of them registered in Niue, a pebble of an island state in the middle of the Pacific Ocean with — like the Caymans — zero tax on offshore earnings.

The records don’t say how much the project partners expected the coal mine and power plant to cost, let alone earn. But they budgeted nearly $10 million for advisors on the power plant alone.

It appears their grand plans soon fell apart, however. In June 2008, only a year after the joint development agreement was signed, AEI Asia told its partners itCambodia Dirty Dozen would be terminating the deal.

But the two offshore holding companies lived on a while longer. Uddor Meanchey Mining, the one Sidara owned shares in, was dissolved only in 2012, five years after it was registered in the Caymans. Rexwell Engineering Limited was dissolved the same year in Guernsey, and AEI Asia appears to have been wound down as well.

Rexwell Engineering Cambodia and EuroAsia Power no longer appear on the Cambodian Commerce Ministry’s business register.

Continue to read in details by The Irawaddy…


Cambodia’s government turns the page

Op-Ed: East Asia Forum
Author: Astrid Norén-Nilsson, Lund UniversityNext week’s Cambodian election is not a contest between parties — it is a vote on the legitimacy of the election itself. With the main opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) dissolved by court order just eight months ahead of the election, the incumbent Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) faces no real challenger.The CNRP has called for a voter boycott, which has turned the election into a referendum over its own legitimacy. The CPP has declared illegal the act of publicly calling for a voter boycott (or even proclaiming one’s intention to abstain), creating confusion among citizens whether voting abstention itself could be judged illegal.Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen and his wife Bun Rany greet people during a commemorating the 10th anniversary of Preah Vihear temple and the first anniversary of Sambo Prei Kuk temple’s being listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Phnom Penh, Cambodia, 15 July 2018 (Photo: Reuters/Samrang Pring).A high voter turnout would smooth Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen’s path to establishing a new authoritarian order. The government has indicated that it is set on achieving a voter turnout of over 80 per cent, which would be far higher than the record low 68 per cent turnout at the last national election in 2013. A high turnout would make the creation of a new national narrative that relegates the CNRP to history a more feasible project. The election could be cited as proof that the nation has come together to express support for the CPP’s resolute derailing of a ‘colour revolution’ in the making.

Yet a high voter turnout is not strictly necessary for the administration’s stability or even likely to impact on its future policy direction. The government’s efforts to ensure a high turnout are in the first place intended to secure the appearance of legitimacy, rather than  to win the people’s hearts and minds.

Once the legitimacy of the new government is publicly unchallengeable, there will likely be efforts to genuinely deepen popular support by tying continued CPP rule and its thwarting of alleged (foreign-backed) revolution to national pride. This would go hand-in-hand with the government’s successful efforts to take politics out of the equation in terms of citizens’ thoughts about their futures: having had their political awakening eclipsed, Cambodia’s urban youth are steering away from politics towards business and entrepreneurship instead.

In the final analysis, it is the act of holding an election rather than the turnout that matters. The election will sanction Hun Sen’s continued hold on power, and the government will construe this victory as a new chapter in the country’s political development after the demise of the political opposition. Though there may be a slight softening of political repression after the election, this will likely not be felt so much by the media and civil society. Since the election will mainly serve to establish a definite ‘before’ and ‘after’, the administration will need to defend the ‘new normal’ that the election ushers in. The fact that former CNRP voters have been bypassed by the election leaves too many issues unresolved for the government to soften its stance substantially.

Meanwhile, a militarisation of the National Assembly prepares for military oversight over policy. The government will continue to court key constituencies previously singled out by the CNRP (such as garment workerscivil servants and the armed forces) with favourable economic policies such as incremental salary raises. As for foreign policy, Cambodia will likely continue its roaring pivot to China and Russia, unperturbed by the election’s lack of recognition by the international community (the European Union and the United States have already proclaimed that, without the CNRP’s participation, the election will not be considered legitimate).

The holding of the election and its outcome may be written in stone, but exactly how it fits into the democratic backsliding of the country is still being sculpted. Multi-party elections will by all appearances remain important in Cambodia beyond 2018, but from now on the fireflies (small, insignificant parties that crop up around election time) may buzz more loudly. The notion of multi-party democracy, embodied by the procedural spectacle of elections, has rooted itself deeply in Cambodia.

At the same time, the government intermittently flirts with the notion of one-party rule, such as when Hun Sen publicly reflected in June that one-party states such as China and Vietnam also let the private sector lead national development. After Cambodia’s government turns the page on 29 July, it may increasingly allude to the merits of de facto one-party rule while continuing to fervently protect the formalities of multi-party democracy.


Cambodia opposition says it has been ‘cut off’ in lead up to election

“We have never banned criticisms but we ban insults and incitements because in an election situation, people need security physically and mentally,” government spokesman Phay Siphan said.

Hun Sen, who has ruled this Southeast Asian nation for over 30 years, has had virtually no opposition since November when the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) was dissolved by the Supreme Court at his government’s request. CNRP was narrowly defeated in a 2013 general election.

Amid condemnation from the international community, CNRP leader Kem Sokha was jailed last year on treason charges and almost 5,000 local authority positions his party had won were handed to members of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP).

“Inside the country, (CNRP members) are completely cut-off from communicating with each other,” 30-year-old Khoeun Virath told Reuters at a cafe in Phnom Penh in what was once his constituency. “There is no leadership structure left.”

 Continue to read whole story by Reuters…

Election monitoring groups in Cambodia headed by PM’s son, ‘ambassador’

The National Election Committee (NEC) says it has approved 69 individual foreign observers, but doesn’t provide the number of institutions.

It has registered 107 domestic groups, which will be dominated by the Union of Youth Federations of Cambodia (UYFC), an organization led by Hun Many, the prime minister’s son and a lawmaker for the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP).

A total of 36,000 members of the UYFC had been registered, said Huy Vannak, a member of the youth organization’s central committee and undersecretary of state for the Interior Ministry. The group will contribute almost half of the 77,534 monitors.

Dim Sovannarom, a spokesman for the NEC, confirmed that “tens of thousands” of the UYFC’s members had been ratified as election observers. UYFC provided election monitors in past polls but not on this scale.

Continue to read in details Reuters…



Global Witness, July 20, 2018

These tycoons include:

  • Senator Mong Reththy, who Global Witness has linked to a massive illegal logging racket and a sand dredging scandal worth millions of dollars. When allegations surfaced that the senator was also involved in marijuana trafficking, the prime minister said that anyone attempting to arrest him should “wear a steel helmet”.
  • Senator Ly Yong Phat, whose sugar company operations led to some of the most violent land grabbing Cambodia has seen this century, with thousands of people thrown off their land. Sugar is just one industry in his huge business portfolio, which spans casinos, the media, infrastructure and more.
  • Try Pheap, previously Hun Sen’s personal advisor, who Global Witness found to be at the helm of a multi-million dollar timber smuggling operation that relied on the complicity of officials from government, the military, police and customs. His company was even granted exclusive rights to buy illegal timber that was seized by the authorities, to sell on at a profit.
  • Senator Lao Meng Khin, who owns Shukaku, the company behind the infamous Boeung Kak lake evictions. Residents who took a stand have been beaten, arrested and jailed by the authorities. Another of his companies, Pheapimex, holds Cambodia’s biggest land concession, which is 33 times bigger than the legal limit introduced shortly after it was granted.

Continue to read in details at Global Wintess…


Cambodia’s ruling party expected to sweep ‘sham’ elections

Hang Vitou, president of the Young Analysts Group, said the ruling party’s victory was a sure bet and estimated that the CPP would win 95 to 120 of the 125 seats in the National Assembly.

Still, Hun Sen’s party continued to campaign out of both genuine and insincere fear, Vitou said.

“They are afraid that many people will not go to vote,” he said, estimating that most supporters of the CNRP would not cast ballots.

Without the CNRP, the ruling party needed to give the impression that it feared losing to other parties, Vitou added.

The CPP “pretend to be afraid but in fact they are not afraid because they know the result already,” he said.

Continue to read full story at DPA International…


Nobody’s Puppet

By Sok Khemara | VOA Khmer ,

Ear Sophal, an associate professor at Los Angeles’ Occidental College who has researched Cambodia’s aid dependency and China’s global resource demand, said Hun Sen’s claim of resisting foreign influence was dispelled by the fact that Vietnam and, more recently, China gained control of large swathes of Cambodia’s natural resources, infrastructure and economy at the expense of ordinary Cambodians.

“Cambodia is now seen as having been for rent for a long time,” he said. “The renter is currently China. Perhaps we can say Vietnam owns Cambodia, while China rents Cambodia from Vietnam.”

Sophal added, “But [Hun Sen] does need more friends than only Vietnam and China – he needs to have Western friends too.”

Continue to read in details VOA Khmer…

When there is the oppressed, what should Cambodian people do?

Posted by: | Posted on: July 22, 2018

Op-Ed: The CEROC

ពេលជួបប្រទះការគាបសង្កត់ តើប្រជាពលរដ្ឋខ្មែរគួរធ្វើអ្វីខ្លះ? When there is the oppressed, what should Cambodian people do?


The CEROC (8) Sophan The Ceroc (3)


១. ទុក្ខសុច្ចៈ = សេចក្តីពិតគឺទុក្ខដែលជាការរំលោភលើរដ្ឋធម្មនុញ្ញ រំលាយនិងជាន់ឈ្លឺសំលេងប្រជាពលរដ្ឋ និងគ្មានសិទ្ធសេរីភាពCambodia Four Financiers to the Dictator

២. សមុទយសច្ចៈ = សេចក្តីពិតគឺលោភៈ ទោសៈ និងមោហៈ ជាគ្រឿងជាប់ជំពាក់នាំទៅរកការរំលោភអំណាចនិងជាប់ជំពាក់អំណាចអស់មួយជីវិតរហូតតវង្សត្រកូល។ សព្វថ្ងៃគេលាតត្រដាងអ្នកផ្គត់ផ្គង់ហិរញ្ញវត្ថុដល់ជនផ្តាច់ការ និងកងកំឡាំងប្រដាប់អាវុធដែលមិនបំរើជាតិតែបំរើជនផ្តាច់ការ

៣. និរោធសច្ចៈ = សេចក្តីពិតគឺលទ្ធិប្រជាធិបតេយ្យនិងការគោរពសិទ្ធមនុស្សមានពិតប្រាកដ ដែលប្រជាពលរដ្ឋត្រូវមានសង្ឃឹមនិងសុទិដ្ឋិខ្ពស់ ក្នុងស្មារតីមោះមុតជានិច្ច។

Cambodia Dirty Dozen៤. មគ្គសច្ចៈ = សេចក្តីពិតគឺការចូលរួមពីគ្រប់មជ្ឃដ្ឋានរបស់ប្រជាពលរដ្ឋខ្មែរតស៊ូមតិមិនចុះញ៉មអំពើអយុត្តិធម៍ដោយការធ្វើពហិការមិនចូលរួមបោះឆ្នោតថ្ងៃ២៩ កក្កដា ២០១៨ ខាងមុខនេះ និងចូលរួមចុះហត្ថលេខាលើញត្តិទាមទារអោយរដ្ឋាភិបាលកាណាដាមិនទទួលស្គាល់លទ្ធផលឆ្នោតក្លែងក្លាយ ជួយស្តារលទ្ធិប្រជាធិបតេយ្យនិងសិទ្ធិមនុស្សនៅកម្ពុជា និងមិនផ្តល់ទិដ្ឋាការក៏ដូចជាបង្កកទ្រព្យសម្បតិ្តដល់មន្ត្រីណាដែលមានបាតដៃកខ្វក់រំលោភសិទ្ធិមនុស្ស។ មួយទៀតគឺចុះហត្ថលេខាសំណូមពរអោយប្រទេសហត្ថលេខីនៃកិច្ចព្រមព្រៀងសន្តិភាពទីក្រុងប៉ារីសស្តារឡើងវិញនូវលទ្ធិប្រជាធិបតេយ្យនៅកម្ពុជាClean Finger

The Essay That Helped Bring Down the Soviet Union

Posted by: | Posted on: July 21, 2018

The Essay That Helped Bring Down the Soviet Union

Op-Ed: The New York Times

It championed an idea at grave risk today: that those of us lucky enough to live in open societies should fight for the freedom of those born into closed ones.

By Natan Sharansky, Mr. Sharansky, the author of “The Case for Democracy,” is a former spokesman for Andrei Sakharov. He spent nine years in Soviet prisons and the gulag.

Andrei Sakharov in Moscow in 1973. Credit Associated Press

Fifty years ago this Sunday, this paper devoted three broadsheet pages to an essay that had been circulating secretly in the Soviet Union for weeks. The manifesto, written by Andrei Sakharov, championed an essential idea at grave risk today: that those of us lucky enough to live in open societies should fight for the freedom of those born into closed ones. This radical argument changed the course of history.

Sakharov’s essay carried a mild title — “Thoughts on Progress, Peaceful Coexistence and Intellectual Freedom” — but it was explosive. “Freedom of thought is the only guarantee against an infection of mankind by mass myths, which, in the hands of treacherous hypocrites and demagogues, can be transformed into bloody dictatorships,” he wrote. Suddenly the Soviet Union’s most decorated physicist became its most prominent dissident.

Read Sakharov’s Original Essay

Fifty years ago The Times published an excerpt of the Soviet dissident’s manifesto.

For this work and other “thought crimes” the Soviet authorities stripped Sakharov of his honors, imprisoned many of his associates and, eventually, exiled him to Gorky.

In 1968, when this work was published, I was a 20-year-old mathematician studying at the Moscow equivalent of M.I.T. Although we dared not discuss it, my peers and I lived a life of double-think: toeing the Communist Party line in public, thinking independently in private. Like so many others, I read Sakharov’s essay in samizdat — a typewritten copy duplicated secretly, spread informally and read hungrily.

Its message was unsettling and liberating: You cannot be a good scientist or a free person while living a double life. Knowing the truth while collaborating in the regime’s lies only produces bad science and broken souls.

Heroic Essay by Sakhavo-page-001Sakharov’s essay, which coincided with the Prague Spring, helped energize democratic dissident movements that were just budding in a post-Stalinist world. The largest of these was one I would soon join: the so-called refusenik movement to allow the Soviet Union’s long-oppressed Jews the freedom to emigrate.

Some Russian dissidents mistrusted the Zionist movement as particularistic and unpatriotic, fearing it would distract from their broader human rights agenda. Not Sakharov. He supported the refuseniks because he recognized the right to emigrate as a gateway to democratic entitlement that opens everyone to embracing freedom in a closed society.

By the mid-1970s I was serving as Sakharov’s spokesman, and I remember after yet another friend of ours had been sentenced to prison, he told me: “They want us to believe there’s no chance of success. But whether or not there’s hope for change is not the question. If you want to be a free person, you don’t stand up for human rights because it will work, but because it is right. We must continue living as decent people.”

Sakharov’s decency made him a moral compass orienting not just the East, but also the West. He insisted that international relations should be contingent on a country’s domestic behavior — and that such a seemingly idealistic stance was ultimately pragmatic. “A country that does not respect the rights of its own people will not respect the rights of its neighbors,” he often explained.

Heroic Essay by Sakhavo-page-002As Sakharov and his fellow dissidents in the 1970s and ’80s challenged a détente disconnected from human rights, Democrats and Republicans of conscience followed suit. Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan disagreed about many specific policies, but both presidents linked human rights and foreign policy. President Carter treated Soviet dissidents not as distractions but as respected partners in a united struggle for freedom. President Reagan went further, tying the fate of specific dissidents to America’s relations with what he called the “evil empire.”

Approaching the fight to win the Cold War as a human rights crusade as well as a national security priority energized Americans. It reminded them that, regardless of the guilt and defeatism of the Vietnam War or the shame and cynicism of Watergate, the country remained a beacon of liberty.

This anniversary of Andrei Sakharov’s heroic essay comes during similarly dark days for the United States.

Despite the dramatic discontinuities between Donald Trump and Barack Obama, in divorcing human rights from foreign policy President Trump is following President Obama’s lead.

Mr. Obama repeatedly prioritized engaging dictatorial regimes rather than challenging their human rights records. His eagerness to strike a nuclear deal with Heroic Essay by Sakhavo-page-003Iran muffled his moral voice during Iran’s Green Revolution of 2009. And he refused to make diplomatic progress conditional on demands that Iran stop supporting terror globally or executing its own people at home.

Mr. Trump has taken America’s human-rights-free foreign policy to absurd new heights. His assertion that North Koreans support Kim Jong-un with “great fervor” undermined America’s moral standing, sabotaged North Korean dissidents and legitimized an evil dictator. His shocking refusal to confront President Vladimir Putin of Russia over his country’s blatant interference in the 2016 United States presidential election highlights his unwillingness to protect Americans’ democratic rights, let alone Russians’ human rights.

The wisdom of Sakharov’s essay may not be in fashion these days, but the truth it contains is eternal. People all over the world are waiting for an American leader to recover it.

Natan Sharansky, the author of “The Case for Democracy,” is a former spokesman for Andrei Sakharov. He spent nine years in Soviet prisons and the gulag. This essay was written with Gil Troy, a historian at McGill University and the author of “The Zionist Ideas.”

Collection of Popular International News on Cambodia’s Fake Election 29 July 2018

Posted by: | Posted on: July 19, 2018

View the stream on youtube on “Political Behaviour” of a “Populist Authoritarian” in Cambodia from a series of daily “Political Analysis on Cambodia Election 29 July 2018”

The Japan-China rivalry is playing out in Cambodia’s election

Reported by Nyshka Chandran, July 19, 2018

The United States and the European Union have suspended funding to the National Election Committee, which is meant to be independent, but is widely believed to be controlled by the ruling party. The United Nations, meanwhile, has warned that the election won’t be “genuine” and urged Phnom Penh to lift a ban on the CNRP, which is advising Cambodians to boycott the vote.

Courtesy: The Diplomat

Courtesy: The Diplomat

According to CNRP Deputy President Mu Sochua, Tokyo should withdraw its cooperation: “Cambodia needs to move forward, and it can only do so with democracy … that’s why we continue to explain to Japan that the only chance to help Cambodia is to side with democracy.”

The CNRP has tried reaching out to Beijing to explain its argument, but so far has been unsuccessful, Sochua told CNBC over the phone.

“To support Mr. Hun Sen is to support dictatorship and with dictatorship, no government can protect their investments,” she said, adding that “Mr. Hun Sen will keep giving more concessions to Chinese companies, so if Japan wants to protect its investments, it should stay on the side of democracy.”

In recent public comments, Japanese officials have urged Phnom Penh to hold free and fair elections, but didn’t touch on on the government’s human rights violations. Japan’s embassy in Cambodia told CNBC that Tokyo’s assistance was aimed at enhancing the credibility of the electoral process.

“Although Japan supports the technical and logistical aspects of the electoral process, they are not, at least in their own view, necessarily endorsing the legitimacy of the election itself,” echoed Deth Sok Udom, a political science professor at Phnom Penh’s Zaman University.

Ultimately, Abe may find he has to choose between maintaining economic power in Cambodia or upholding democratic standards.

“I suspect that Japan would opt for the first strategy,” Chambers said.

Continue to read more details by CNBC…


Hun Sen retains his tight grip on Cambodia, and freedoms can wait

Opined by Markus Karbaum, July 19, 2018

However, while the regime uses economic development as the main pillar for its legitimacy, most Cambodians are not part of the ruling CPP patronage network and hardly benefit from the economic rebound. Education and health care in the country are still considerably underdeveloped compared to most of its neighbours.

As pointed out by the Bertelsmann Transformation Index 2018, red tape and nepotism prevail. And Cambodia remains the most corrupt country in Southeast Asia, according to corruption watchdog Transparency International. These conditions contributed to the rise of the opposition CNRP as the regime has, so far, been completely unwilling to transform its governance style.

Instead of protesting against the growing social imbalance and the inefficient public sector, for years Cambodians have been migrating in increasing numbers. This trend has left many unable to find regular work abroad, putting Cambodians at the greatest risk among all Southeast Asians of becoming victims of human trafficking, according to the 2016 Global Slavery Index.

In effect, a population exchange has taken place, as initially Vietnamese and recently more and more Chinese citizens resettle in Cambodia, at least with the goodwill of the Hun Sen government.

Continue to read more details on South China Morning Post…


What has gone wrong in Cambodia?

Opined by Milton Osborne, July 19, 2018

As David Chandler notes of the political opposition at the time in his A History of Cambodia, “The royalist party soon lost its voice in decision making as well as its freedom of manoeuvre.”

Tired of the problems in Cambodia that had been exercising Western governments for more than a decade, no external players intervened to change the course of events. Similarly, there was never any sign at that stage that Moscow and Beijing had any interest in becoming directly involved in opposing the CPP’s actions.

The complex political history of the period from 1993 to 1997 is well documented in David W. Roberts’ Political Transition in Cambodia: Power, Elitism and Democracy. A disclosure: I reviewed this book for Pacific Affairs in 2001 and commented that it could be read as a justification for Hun Sen’s political behaviour. But I found persuasive, then and now, his endorsement of a view offered by long-term observer of Cambodia Steve Heder that the key players of the period – Sihanouk, Sam Rainsy, and Ranariddh – were all characterised by “deeply illiberal, anti-democratic and anti-pluralist tendencies”.

This lack of action in 1993 was followed by the unwillingness of external players to take any measures that mattered after Hun Sen’s brutal coup de force in July 1997 that saw the CPP overwhelm Prince Ranariddh’s FUNCINPEC.

Roberts tellingly quotes Henry Kissinger as asking rhetorically in 1998, “Why should we [the West] flagellate ourselves for what Cambodians did to each other?” Then UN secretary-general Kofi Annan claimed in 1997, shortly after Hun Sen’s coup, that the UNTAC intervention was “successful in helping to establish national institutions which could lead to stability and economic development”. This latter comment seems to typify the worst kind of readiness of an international civil servant to gloss over the realities of a complex set of circumstances.

The sanctions that followed the events of 1997, which included the US Congress cutting off aid to Cambodia and ASEAN postponing the admission of Cambodia to membership, also marked the beginning of Hun Sen’s ever closer relations with China. Having helped the Khmer Rouge for decades – before, during, and after the period of Pol Pot’s rule – Beijing now changed its policy and embarked on support for Hun Sen and the CPP, which continues to the present day.

It is China’s support that has enabled Hun Sen to weather repeated criticisms of his regime while building up the military strength that ensures his survival. The return for this Chinese largesse has been Cambodia’s reliable support for its foreign policy objectives, most notably in relation to the South China Sea. And Hun Sen has never ceased to contrast Chinese aid offered “without strings” with aid from Western nations tied to conditions.

Analysis of the 2013 national election, in which the CPP’s vote declined significantly, suggested that social media and the voting pattern of younger Cambodians had begun to play an important part in shaping political opinion. These facts might explain the serial courses of action that Hun Sen has taken to neuter any effective political challenge from his opponents, most particularly the dissolution of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party.

Everything suggests that Hun Sen has set his course and will not be deflected from it. In doing so he is showing himself more inclined to double down on authoritarian action than to reflect his little known chess playing abilities. And there is no reason to think any external player that matters will do anything to divert him from his present policies.

Continue to read The Interpreter…


Hun Sen is tempting fate in Cambodia’s election

Opined by Thitinan Pongsudhirak, July 17, 2018

Harsher measures from the U.S. and EU could target the Cambodian garment and footwear sector, which constitutes about 80% of the country’s exports. As they represent Cambodia’s largest export markets, the actions of the U.S. and EU have been tempered by concerns over the adverse consequences on Cambodian workers.

But if Hun Sen keeps continues to crack down after the election by further persecuting the opposition and violating human rights, the U.S. and EU might play hardball as well. This is what Sam Rainsy, another CNRP leader who lives in exile, has been urging.

Voter turnout will be critical in the upcoming election. The CNRP is trying to keep voters at home by promoting a “clean-finger” campaign, referring to the fact that ink is applied to the index finger of those who vote. While offering cash inducements to voters, Hun Sen has threatened yet undefined punitive measures for those who refuse to vote. After the election results are announced, China will likely give its automatic blessing, while Western democracies will demur. Japan will face a dilemma after providing election monitoring assistance.

Post-election Cambodia will resemble a simmering powder keg. Social unrest is possible in the aftermath, especially if turnout is low and coercion and violence are rife. Hun Sen is banking on the notion that growth and development can deliver to him elected authoritarian rule despite excluding nearly half of the electorate.

Demographic trends and social media pose a threat to Hun Sen. Two-thirds of Cambodia’s 16 million population are between 15 and 64 years of age, with another 30% under 15. The new generation born after the 1993 election is increasingly connected to social media. Registered Facebook users in Cambodia, for example, have doubled to 6.8 million in just the past two years.

The writing is on the wall for Hun Sen, but his battle-hardened instincts will be to fight tooth and nail to remain in power. Even as he resorts to increased manipulation and repression, Cambodia’s young electorate will become more agitated while Western condemnation intensifies and the political opposition rallies from outside the country.

China therefore should realize that its coddling of Cambodia’s elected dictator does not fit well with Beijing’s aspirations to become a responsible global leader. Hun Sen would be better off reviving the U.N.-led power-sharing plan of 25 years ago which mirrored the country’s popular will. His deeply flawed election this time is likely to set the stage for his demise down the road.

 Continue to read Japan Nikkei…


Posted by: | Posted on: July 17, 2018

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