Monday, September 1st, 2014

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Posted by: | Posted on: September 1, 2014

Cambodia at the crossroads by Sebastian Strangio on SE Globe

To start with, analysts say it is more than likely that the canny Hun Sen, who has survived repeated cycles of Cambodian history since becoming prime minister in 1985, will attempt to manipulate the agreement for his own gain. As the royalist Funcinpec party discovered after entering a coalition with the CPP in 1993, a share of government posts and ministerial portfolios is no guarantee of real power. Despite winning that election, Funcinpec officials quickly found themselves cut out of decision-making – “shuffling meaningless documents, attending vacuous meetings, reading newspapers”, as the historian Steve Heder wrote.

Under coalitions brokered after elections in 1998 and 2003, Hun Sen slowly picked off Funcinpec’s leadership with threats and inducements, and the party eventually collapsed in ignominy at the 2013 election, failing to win a single seat. “Hun Sen sliced [Funcinpec] up like you sliced a salami, and then [he ate] them one by one,” said Benny Widyono, a former UN envoy to Cambodia.
Observers said the CNRP now runs the risk of its strong electoral showing being paid out, Funcinpec-style, in a debased coinage of powerless posts in powerless institutions. “I have no reason to believe that the way in which the CPP and CNRP interact has changed fundamentally,” said Sophal Ear, the author of Aid Dependence in Cambodia: How Foreign Assistance Undermines Democracy. Ear said that “by hook or by crook”, Hun Sen would try to turn the arrangement to his advantage, exploiting ambiguities in the deal, buying off the opposition, and wielding the salami knife with as much relish as ever. As Ear said: “The devil is in the details.” I would like to invite everyone to read more on Southeast Asia GLOBE…

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