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Posted by: | Posted on: November 16, 2018

គំរប់ពេលមួយឆ្នាំនៃការរំលាយគណបក្សសង្គ្រោះជាតិទាំងបំពាន

Op-Ed: The CEROC

សេចក្តីថ្លែងការណ៍

Public Statement on the Dissolution of CNRP 16 November 2018 គំរប់ពេលមួយឆ្នាំនៃការរំលាយគណបក្សសង្គ្រោះជាតិទាំងបំពាន

សូមគោរពបងប្អូនជនរួមជាតិទាំងអស់ជាទីស្រឡាញ់រាប់អាន!

‌            ថ្ងៃនេះទី១៦ ខែវិច្ឆិកា ឆ្នាំ២០១៨ ជាគំរប់ពេលមួយឆ្នាំដែលតុលាការកំពូលនៃព្រះរាជា ណាចក្រកម្ពុជាបានសម្រេចចិត្តរំលាយគណបក្សសង្គ្រោះជាតិជាគណបក្សជំទាស់តែមួយគត់ ក្នុងរបបប្រជាធិបតេយ្យសេរីពហុបក្សដែលចាប់កំណើតតាំងពីឆ្នាំ១៩៩១ដោយអ៊ុនតាក់។

ការរំលាយគណបក្សសង្គ្រោះជាតិនេះគឺជាកំហុសដ៏ធំរបស់ប្រព័ន្ធតុលាការកម្ពុជាជាពិសេសតុលាការកំពូលដែលបានសំអាងទៅលើច្បាប់ថ្មីវិសោធនកម្មដោយលើកដៃពីសមាជិកតំណាងរាស្ត្រគណបក្សប្រជាជនទាំងស្រុងកាលពីខែកុម្ភៈឆ្នាំង២០១៧។ ច្បាប់ដែលធ្វើវិសោធនកម្មដោយឯកបក្សនេះមានចែងអំពីបុគ្គលថ្នាក់ដឹកនាំគណបក្សនយោបាយដែលប្រព្រឹត្តបទល្មើសអាជ្ញាកម្ម អាចឈានដល់រំលាយគណបក្សដែលបុគ្គលនោះគ្រប់គ្រងចោល។

ប្រការនេះបានបង្ខំចិត្តអោយលោកសម-រង្ស៊ី ប្រធានគណបក្សសង្គ្រោះជាតិលាលែងចេញ ពីតំណែងប្រធានគណបក្សក្នុងន័យដើម្បីរក្សាគណបក្សអោយមានជីវិតបន្តពីព្រោះតុលាការខ្មែរបានបង្កើតបទចោទប្រកាន់ជាច្រើនជាពិសេសបទបរិហារកេរ្តិ៍ប្រមុខរាជរដ្ឋាភិបាលកំរិតបទឧក្រិដ្ឋដល់លោកសម-រង្ស៊ី។

ប៉ុន្តែអាជ្ញាធរបានបុកចូលផ្ទះលោកកឹម-សុខាទាំងកណ្តាលយប់អាធ្រាតដើម្បីចាប់លោក យកទៅឃុំឃាំងក្នុងគុកត្រពាំងផ្លុងក្នុងទោសក្បត់ជាតិចោទប្រកាន់ពីសំណាក់រដ្ឋាភិបាលដឹកនាំដោយលោកហ៊ុន-សែន។ ការចាប់នេះគឺជាការឃុំខ្លួនបណ្តោះអាសន្នដើម្បីស៊ើបអង្កេតស្វែងរកភស្តុតាង។ ហើយមកដល់ថ្ងៃនេះចៅក្រមស៊ើបអង្កេតមិនទាន់កាត់ក្តីសម្រេចចិត្តដាក់បន្ទុកលើ លោកកឹម-សុខានៅឡើយទេ។

ដូច្នេះតុលាការកំពូលគ្មានតឹកតាងណាឬអំណាស់អំណាងផ្លូវច្បាប់ណាដែលអាចរំលាយគណបក្សសង្គ្រោះជាតិបានឡើយ។ ម្យ៉ាងទៀតចៅក្រមស៊ើបសួរក៏គ្មានច្បាប់ណាអនុញ្ញាតអោយលោកបន្តឃុំខ្លួនបណ្តោះអាសន្នយូររហូតមកដល់សព្វថ្ងៃនេះដែរ។

គណៈកម្មាធិការដើម្បីសិទ្ធិបោះឆ្នោតរបស់ពលរដ្ឋខ្មែរនៅក្រៅប្រទេសសូមអំពាវនាវដល់ សហគមអន្តរជាតិនិងលោកហ៊ុន-សែន ត្រូវពិចារណាដកលោកឌិត-មន្ទីដែលជាប្រធានតុលាការកំពូលចេញពីតំណែង ក្នុងការដែលលោកសម្រេចរំលាយគណបក្សសង្គ្រោះជាតិដោយខ្វះ មូលដ្នានច្បាប់ និងធ្វើឡើងដោយអគតិភាព រំលោភអំណាច និងអសីលធម៌។ ដូចគ្នាដែរ ត្រូវដកលោកគី-ប្ញទ្ធីដែលជាចៅក្រមស៊ើបសួរករណីលោកកឹម-សុខាក្នុងការដែលលោកអសមត្ថភាពក្នុងការបំពេញការងារដោយបន្តឃុំខ្លួនលោកកឹម-សុខាមកអស់រយៈពេលជាងមួយឆ្នាំមកនេះ។

ធ្វើនៅកាណាដា ថ្ងៃទី១៦ ខែវិច្ឆិកា ឆ្នាំ២០១៨

Public Statement on the Dissolution of CNRP 16 November 2018 in pdf file

Posted by: | Posted on: November 13, 2018

Where in the world is Cambodia?

Op-Ed: NewMandala

Considering the prime minister’s firm control over Cambodia’s political and economic institutions and his proven ability to exploit the tension caused by conflicts and disputes in all those three areas(a narrative of suspicion, moral superiority and hierarchy, and a new rhetoric) , a thorough review of democracy promoters’ rhetoric and strategy might well be overdue.

ពិចារណាលើការក្តោបអំណាចយ៉ាងមាំរបស់លោកនាយករដ្ឋមន្ត្រីទៅលើស្ថាប័នសេដ្ឋកិច្ចនិងនយោបាយ ហើយសមត្ថភាពជាក់ស្តែងរបស់គាត់ដើម្បីកេងចំណេញលើភាពតានតឹងបណ្តាលមកពីការបែកបាក់និងជំលោះនៅគ្រប់លក្ខ័ន្ធទាំងបីនោះ(សាច់រឿងអោយមានការសង្ស័យ, ឋានានុក្រមនិងសក្តិយសខ្ពស់ផ្នែកសីលធម៌, និងវោហាសាស្ត្រថ្មី)ការពិនិត្យពិច័យល្អិតល្អន់ទៅលើវោហាសាស្ត្រនិងយុទ្ធសាស្ត្ររបស់អ្នកផ្សព្វផ្សាយលទ្ធិប្រជាធិបតេយ្យអាចនឹងត្រូវហួសពេលអស់យ៉ាងច្បាស់។

Read the whole article with newmandala in details

Cambodian opposition leader Sam Rainsy (C-L) raises hands with Kem Sokha (C-R), deputy of Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) in front of members of parliament before the swearing in ceremony inside the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh on August 5, 2014. Rainsy and 54 other members of his party were sworn in as members of parliament on August 5, after a year-long boycott of parliament triggered by a disputed election. AFP PHOTO/ TANG CHHIN SOTHY / AFP PHOTO / TANG CHHIN SOTHY

Cambodian opposition leader Sam Rainsy (C-L) raises hands with Kem Sokha (C-R), deputy of Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) in front of members of parliament before the swearing in ceremony inside the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh on August 5, 2014. Rainsy and 54 other members of his party were sworn in as members of parliament on August 5, after a year-long boycott of parliament triggered by a disputed election. AFP PHOTO/ TANG CHHIN SOTHY / AFP PHOTO / TANG CHHIN SOTHY

Mu Sochua closed her talk by singing a song from the campaign trail.

Mu Sochua closed her talk by singing a song from the campaign trail.

Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen addresses the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York, the United States, 28 September 2018 (Photo: Reuters/Eduardo Munoz).

Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen addresses the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York, the United States, 28 September 2018 (Photo: Reuters/Eduardo Munoz).

Posted by: | Posted on: November 13, 2018

High-stakes wager underlines Cambodia’s dysfunction

Sam Rainsy claimed that such “international pressure” will force the CPP government to hold a swift trial for Kem Sokha in the coming months, after which Hun Sen will grant him a royal pardon. This would allow the CPP government to make headway in negotiations with the EU and US, forestalling further sanctions.

“No, I won’t release him,” Hun Sen responded hours after Sam Rainsy offered the wager over social media, adding that Kem Sokha would only be released when “the horse grows horns.”

លោកសម-រង្សុីអៈអាងថាគំនាបអន្តរជាតិនោះនឹងជំរុញអោយរដ្ឋាភិបាលគណបក្សប្រជាជនកម្ពុជាបើកការកាត់ក្តីភ្លាមៗសម្រាប់លោកកឹម-សុខាក្នុងខែខាងមុខ បន្ទាប់មកលោកហ៊ុន-សែននឹងស្នើសុំព្រះមហាក្សត្រដើម្បីលើកលែងទោស។ ធ្វើដូច្នេះអាចបើកផ្លូវអោយរដ្ឋាភិបាលគណបក្សប្រជាជនកម្ពុជាត្រួសត្រាយផ្លូវចរចារជាមួយអុីយូនិងសហរដ្ឋអាមេរិកដើម្បីទប់ស្កាត់ការគិតជាមុនក្នុងរឿងដាក់ទណ្ឌកម្មបន្ថែម។

ទេ ខ្ញុំនឹងមិនដោះលែងគាត់ដាច់ខាត – លោកហ៊ុន-សែនឆ្លើយតបមិនប៉ុន្មានម៉ោងក្រោយលោកសម-រង្សុីបបួលការភ្នាល់តាមបណ្តាញសង្គម ដោយលោកហ៊ុន-សែនបន្ថែមថាដោះលែងលុះត្រាតែសេះដុះស្នែង។


The connections between the CPP and senior judiciary officials is obvious. Dith Munty, the Supreme Court’s president who presided over the CNRP’s dissolution case, is a member of the CPP’s elite Permanent Committee, its main decision-making body.

Chiv Keng and Chea Leang, members of the Supreme Court’s jurist council, sit on the party’s more voluminous Central Committee, as does Yun Bunleng, president of the country’s Appeals Court.

ទំនាក់ទំនងរវាងគណបក្សប្រជាជនកម្ពុជានិងមន្ត្រីតុលាការជាន់ខ្ពស់គឺពិតជាក់ស្តែង។ លោកឌិត-មន្ទី ជាប្រធានតុលាការកំពូលដែលដឹកនាំករណីរំលាយគណបក្សសង្គ្រោះជាតិគឺជាសមាជិកគណកម្មាធិការអចិន្ត្រៃយ៌សំខាន់របស់គណបក្សប្រជាជនកម្ពុជា ជាអង្គភាពខាងផ្តល់ការសម្រេចចិត្តសំខាន់របស់ខ្លួន។

លោកជីវ-កេងនិងអ្នកស្រីជា-លៀង ជាសមាជិកក្រុមប្រឹក្សានៃអង្គចៅក្រមនៃតុលាការកំពូល អង្គុយជាគណៈកម្មាធិការកណ្តាលជាមួយសមាជិកដ៏ច្រើនផ្សេងទៀតរបស់គណបក្សកាន់អំណាចនេះ រួមទាំងលោកយូ-ប៊ុនលេងផងដែរដែលជាប្រធានតុលាការឧទររបស់ប្រទេស។

Op-Ed: Asia Time

High-stakes wager underlines Cambodia’s dysfunction

PM Hun Sen takes a bet with exiled opposition rival Sam Rainsy that could force him to choose between continued political domination and economic survival

 PHNOM PENH, NOVEMBER 12, 2018 4:05 PM (UTC+8)
Cambodia-Hun Sen-Sam Rainsy-2015-Youtube

The intention of Sam Rainsy, the former CNRP president who has been in exile since late 2015, appears to be to force Hun Sen to choose between his own domination of politics and the country’s economic survival. Kem Sokha’s liberty, however, could come at the cost of both.

With the CNRP off the ballot, the CPP easily won July’s general election, securing all 125 seats in the National Assembly. The international community, meanwhile, described the election as illegitimate and are lining up retaliatory sanctions for the move away from democracy.

After a year of political deterioration, the CPP government is under intense pressure from the international community and could soon be removed from a preferential-trade scheme by the European Union, its largest export market.

The United States, which has imposed financial sanctions on some Cambodian officials, has along with the EU made the dropping of charges against Kem Sokha one of its chief diplomatic demands.

Sam Rainsy claimed that such “international pressure” will force the CPP government to hold a swift trial for Kem Sokha in the coming months, after which Hun Sen will grant him a royal pardon. This would allow the CPP government to make headway in negotiations with the EU and US, forestalling further sanctions.

“No, I won’t release him,” Hun Sen responded hours after Sam Rainsy offered the wager over social media, adding that Kem Sokha would only be released when “the horse grows horns.”

Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen (C) casts his vote during the general elections as his wife Bun Rany (centre L) looks on in Phnom Penh on July 29, 2018. Photo: AFP/Manan Vatsyayana

Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen (C) casts his vote during the general elections as his wife Bun Rany (centre L) looks on in Phnom Penh on July 29, 2018. Photo: AFP/Manan Vatsyayana

Fresh News, a CPP-aligned media outlet, quoted Hun Sen as saying that he agreed to Sam Rainsy’s wager. “I bet with Sam Rainsy. If Kem Sokha is released, Hun Sen will resign; but if not, Rainsy shall dare to be arrested,” he reportedly said.

Sam Rainsy later claimed that he had tricked Hun Sen – “who has fallen into my trap”, he said – by explicitly showing himself to be a “dictator who is using the court as a political tool.”

For months, government spokespeople have said that Kem Sokha’s detention is a matter for the judiciary and neither Hun Sen nor government ministers have any say in the matter. Hun Sen’s public comments, however, appear to be an admission he controls the judiciary, analysts said.

“This says that even Hun Sen finds Cambodia’s judicial system farcical,” said Paul Chambers, a political analyst at the College of Asean Community Studies at Naresuan University in Thailand. “Hun Sen is happy to let everyone clearly understand that only he controls the levers of power and jurisprudence in the country.”

Sam Rainsy, who spoke to Asia Times over the weekend, defended the wager. “This is a unique opportunity to make things move forward and to break the deadlock,” he said.

“I accept to possibly lose my freedom in order to ensure freedom for the Cambodian people. But Hun Sen’s falling into my trap has made his position untenable.”

The wager, however, could be a lose-lose for both. By publicly accepting the wager with the proviso that he will step down, there will undoubtedly be criticism of Hun Sen if Kem Sokha is released and he remains as prime minister.

The EU said in October that the process to remove Cambodia from its Everything But Arms (EBA) scheme could begin by early next year.

A garment shop is displayed along a street in Phnom Penh, Cambodia July 5, 2017. REUTERS/Samrang Pring

A garment shop along a street in Phnom Penh, Cambodia July 5, 2017. Photo: Reuters/Samrang Pring

If enforced, analysts predict the implosion of Cambodia’s export- driven economy, especially its garment sector, currrently the largest contributor to gross domestic product. The country’s garments are chiefly sold to European markets.

The EU demands that charges be dropped against Kem Sokha, one condition that could save Cambodia’s place in the EBA scheme.

But if Hun Sen sticks to the wager, then Kem Sokha will either have to be imprisoned and not pardoned – his charge carries a possible 15 year sentence – or held in pre-trial detention until March 3, which would be in violation of Cambodian law.

“It does appear that someone took the bait and ended-up making a farce of judicial independence and the rule of law,” said Sophal Ear, associate professor of diplomacy and world affairs at Occidental College at Los Angeles “Surely [Hun Sen] should have seen it coming – as a chess player and master of strategy.”

Somewhat ironically, the wager was made during the visit of Rhona Smith, UN Human Rights Council’s Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Cambodia. She spoke chiefly about the need for judicial reform during her two weeks in Phnom Penh. (The government denied her a meeting with Kem Sokha.)

The connections between the CPP and senior judiciary officials is obvious. Dith Munty, the Supreme Court’s president who presided over the CNRP’s dissolution case, is a member of the CPP’s elite Permanent Committee, its main decision-making body.

Chiv Keng and Chea Leang, members of the Supreme Court’s jurist council, sit on the party’s more voluminous Central Committee, as does Yun Bunleng, president of the country’s Appeals Court.

FILE PHOTO - Supporters of Kem Sokha, leader of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), stand outside the Appeal Court during a bail hearing for the jailed opposition leader in Phnom Penh, Cambodia September 26, 2017. REUTERS/Samrang Pring

Kem Sokha supporters stand outside an Appeal Court during a hearing for the jailed opposition leader in Phnom Penh, September 26, 2017. Photo: Reuters/Samrang Pring

“Cambodia’s courts are not independent. If anything is remotely political, they take their marching orders from the executive branch [of the CPP]. It’s not the rule of law; it’s the rule of man, and one man in particular,” said Sophal Ear. “Judicial independence is still a dream in Cambodia.”

Human rights campaigners, journalists and political commentators were arrested in the months leading up to the election, but some had their convictions quashed post-election under royal pardons, which were requested by Hun Sen.

Indeed, Hun Sen’s new one-party state has been swiftly loosening some of the restrictions it enacted before July’s general election. However, Hun Sen and other senior CPP officials say there is zero possibility of the CNRP being reinstated as a political entity.

Sam Rainsy, meanwhile, also finds himself in a tricky position. For a start, he has now publicly stated that will return to Cambodia to face imprisonment if Kem Sokha isn’t released by March.

Some CNRP members have spoken privately of their displeasure at Sam Rainsy fleeing the country in 2015, rather than staying to resist. If he fails to stick to the wager’s terms, it could further tarnish his reputation for integrity.

Added to this, some within the Party thought Kem Sokha would be more likely released if tensions between the CPP and CNRP eased. But by pouring more gas onto the fire, Sam Rainsy might have scuppered any such accommodation.

Cambodian opposition leader Sam Rainsy (C-L) raises hands with Kem Sokha (C-R), deputy of Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) in front of members of parliament before the swearing in ceremony inside the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh on August 5, 2014. Rainsy and 54 other members of his party were sworn in as members of parliament on August 5, after a year-long boycott of parliament triggered by a disputed election. AFP PHOTO/ TANG CHHIN SOTHY / AFP PHOTO / TANG CHHIN SOTHY

Cambodian opposition leader Sam Rainsy (C-L) raises hands with Kem Sokha (C-R), deputy of Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) in front of members of parliament before the swearing in ceremony inside the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh on August 5, 2014. Rainsy and 54 other members of his party were sworn in as members of parliament on August 5, after a year-long boycott of parliament triggered by a disputed election. AFP PHOTO/ TANG CHHIN SOTHY / AFP PHOTO / TANG CHHIN SOTHY

Hun Sen, a stubborn leader who has been premier since 1985, might have been willing to release Kem Sokha because of international pressure, analysts say, but he would not be willing to lose even more face by backing down to Sam Rainsy’s gamble, too.

“Because of the bet, Kem Sokha is sure not to be released by March 3,” said Sophal Ear.

It has also re-opened rifts between the two main factions of the CNRP, which was formed in 2012 by the merger of Sam Rainsy’s eponymous party and Kem Sokha’s Human Rights Party.

In 2016, tensions between the two leaders’ groups spilled out into the open, when one senior party official threatened to quit unless underlying issues were resolved.

After the CNRP’s dissolution, Sam Rainsy and some party members who came from his original party formed in America the Cambodia National Rescue Movement (CNRM). At the time, Kem Sokha loyalists claimed this was Sam Rainsy’s attempt to re-assert his control over the opposition movement.

Kem Sokha took over as CNRP president in early 2017 after Sam Rainsy was forced to resign due to legal changes in Cambodia that would have dissolved the party if he remained as leader.

“Kem Sokha and Sam Rainsy have been political allies in the CNRP only when it suits them. In this case, Rainsy seems to be trying to promote himself as the leading personality opposing Hun Sen, even if the bet is detrimental to Kem Sokha,” said Chambers. “But ultimately if because of the bet the CNRP’s two leading factions grow further apart, it only helps Hun Sen.”

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Posted by: | Posted on: November 11, 2018

How to fight back against a dictator, according to an exiled democracy activist

អ្នកស្រីម៉ូ សុខហួរមានប្រសាសន៍ “គាត់ឈ្នះទាំង១២៥កៅអីក្នុងរដ្ឋសភា” ហើយ “ឥឡូវនេះគឺជាការគ្រប់គ្រងឯកបក្សនៅក្នុងប្រទេសកម្ពុជា តែអ្វីដែលលោកហ៊ុន-សែនគ្មានគឺអំណាចស្របច្បាប់-ហើយយើងមិនមានគោលបំណងផ្តល់អោយហ៊ុន-សែននូវអំណាចស្របច្បាប់នោះទេ”។

Op-Ed: Quart

How to fight back against a dictator, according to an exiled democracy activist

By Alice Truong in Taipei

When a country has a strongman for a ruler, an army at his disposal, and control of the media, how can the people fight back?

Mu Sochua closed her talk by singing a song from the campaign trail.

Mu Sochua closed her talk by singing a song from the campaign trail.

You go after the one thing he does not have: legitimacy.

That’s the strategy of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), an opposition party banned for its threat to Asia’s longest-serving prime minister, Hun Sen, said Mu Sochua, one of its leaders in exile.

“We are not just opposition,” she said at the Oslo Freedom Forum yesterday (Nov. 10) in Taipei. “We are the hope of Cambodia.”

Ahead of Cambodia’s elections earlier this year—where the outcome was known well ahead—Hun Sen did what he could to pad his victory. He had the top court disband the CNRP, and jailed human-rights activists, journalists, and critics, including the opposition party’s leader Kem Sokha.

To delegitimize the rigged result, the CNRP started a “clean fingers” campaign urging voters to abstain from voting. Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party responded by threatening voters whose fingers weren’t marked with indelible ink, used to signify a ballot was cast.

According to the National Election Commission, voter turnout for July’s general election was 80.5%, higher than the last general election in 2013, when turnout was 69.6%. The groups that monitored the elections were closely tied to Hun Sen, however, with one headed by one of his sons. Hun Sen is grooming his sons to take over in what will likely become, in essence, a hereditary dictatorship.

“He won all 125 seats in parliament,” Mu Sochua said. “It is now a one-party system in Cambodia, but what Mr. Hun Sen does not have—he does not have legitimacy, and we don’t intend to give Mr. Hun Sen legitimacy.”

Mu Sochua, once a member of Cambodia’s national assembly, had served as the minister of women’s and veterans’ affairs for Hun Sen’s government until she resigned in 2004. “I was proud to be a leader of the Cambodian women, but I was not proud to work for a government that was so corrupt,” she said.Because of Hun Sen’s stronghold on the armed forces and media, she said, it’s up to people outside the country to fight for reform. All over the world, overseas Cambodians are continuing the campaign to delegitimize Hun Sen.

“Whenever he goes outside Cambodia, he is met with protestors—Cambodians living abroad,” she noted.

Ahead of a trip to Australia in March, Hun Sen had warned Cambodian-Australians, who were planning to burn an effigy of him: “I will follow you all the way to your doorstep and beat you right there… I can use violence against you.”

But these threats aren’t deterring Mu Sochua, who believes international pressure is the most viable way to free Kem Sokha and bring change.

“We outside in exile or Cambodian workers in South Korea, Japan, people in France, everywhere—Mr. Hun Sen has a message from us: You are not the legitimate leader of Cambodia. We want real change,” she said.

Posted by: | Posted on: November 7, 2018

Hun Sen’s power paradox

Op-Ed: EastAsiaForum

Hun Sen’s power paradox

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen is continuing to push the limits of personal power consolidation. While his strategies have been highly successful so far, they are likely to result in greater political insecurity in Cambodia.

Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen addresses the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York, the United States, 28 September 2018 (Photo: Reuters/Eduardo Munoz).

Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen addresses the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York, the United States, 28 September 2018 (Photo: Reuters/Eduardo Munoz).

Several concerning developments have emerged in 2018. Since the Supreme Court banned the main opposition party — the Cambodia National Rescue Party, or CNRP — in November 2017, Hun Sen has further consolidated his power by appointing family members to top government positions.

Some of these promotions were of his children. For instance, in late 2017 Hun Sen appointed his third son, Hun Manith, as General Director of the General Directorate of Intelligence, a new intelligence unit designed to train spies for combat against terrorists and any suspected threat from ‘revolutionary’ forces. Hun Sen also promoted his son-in-law, Dy Vichea — former head of the Ministry of Interior’s Central Security Department — to Deputy Chief of the National Police. Most importantly, Hun Sen elevated his eldest son Lieutenant General Hun Manet as a General (four star) following his promotion to Deputy Commander in Chief of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF).

These tactical moves are part of the Prime Minister’s long-term strategy to consolidate power, which has been in place since he removed his then co-prime minister, Norodom Ranariddh, from power in July 1997. Hun Sen has used coercive means to tighten political control over state institutions and co-opt loyal followers. Hun Sen now maintains tight control over the judiciary and electoral processes at both the local and national level and his party, the Cambodian People Party (CPP), dominates the bicameral legislature.

Why has Hun Sen carried out these tactical moves? For some commentators, they are simply a part of Cambodia’s entrenched political culture of authoritarianism, nepotism and patrimonialism. While there is some truth to this way of looking at Cambodian politics, it overlooks Cambodian leaders’ deep sense of insecurity, which drives them to weaken opposition forces by all means necessary. Hun Sen has been comparatively more successful than past Cambodian leaders in consolidating power, and is continuing to expand his domination of Cambodian politics after more than three decades.

Despite this success, Hun Sen still appears to feel insecure. His efforts to fill top government positions with family members are not simply about building a family business empire but rather about shutting down potential threats from within and without. This may explain why Hun Sen maintains a bodyguard unit of up to 6000 well-equipped and highly-paid troops.

Hun Sen’s sense of political vulnerability is also reflected in the words of Hun Manith, who reportedly said that the new General Directorate of Intelligence was designed to deal with ‘internal and external disturbance from a hostile and ill-intended group of people’ and that ‘the political and security situation and competition in the future will be more intense than in previous years’.

But Hun Sen is making the same mistake of the many Cambodian leaders before him: maximising political security by endlessly consolidating power. Hun Sen appears to believe that this strategy will continue to work for him. The problem with this strategy, though, may emerge from Cambodia’s external environment.

Hun Sen has taken advantage of the post-Cold War peace dividend and is also enjoying growing support from China. But he runs the risk of over-relying on Beijing’s support. The extent to which China is prepared to protect the CPP is difficult to determine, but what is clear is Chinese leaders’ long history of abandoning their allies when much was at stake. While Hun Sen may be aware of this possibility, his strategy to weaken domestic political challenges may increase his political insecurity.

Another problem with power consolidation through nepotism or patrimonialism is that it tends to invite resistance and opposition from both within the party and without. At some point, forces opposed to Hun Sen will grow stronger and nastier, especially if an economic downturn hits the country. And if Western democracies begin to impose sanctions on Cambodia, not only will ordinary Cambodians suffer, but the ruling elite will also face a legitimacy crisis. In this scenario, the CPP is likely to resort to even more repressive violence and may even end up self-imploding.

Current and future Cambodian leaders need to realise that security maximisation through unrestrained power consolidation is counterproductive and dangerous. Security does not necessarily result from others’ insecurity. But for this to happen would require CPP leaders to shift from a self-serving strategy to one that considers the security of others through effective dialogue and democratic power sharing.

Sorpong Peou is a Professor with the Department of Politics and Public Administration at Ryerson University, Toronto.

Posted by: | Posted on: November 4, 2018

VOA facebook live on 27th Anniversary of the Paris Peace Agreement on Cambodia

Op-Ed: The CEROC
#VOAKhLive ក្នុងថ្ងៃគម្រប់ខួប២៧ឆ្នាំនៃកិច្ចព្រមព្រៀងសន្តិភាពទីក្រុងប៉ារីស ពលរដ្ឋខ្មែរក្រៅប្រទេស ទទូចឱ្យមានការគោរពតាមស្មារតីនៃកិច្ចព្រមព្រៀងនេះ ដែលធានាឱ្យមានការបោះឆ្នោតដោយសេរីនិងត្រឹមត្រូវតាមបែបប្រជាធិបតេយ្យសេរីពហុបក្សនៅកម្ពុជា។ លោក សាយ មុន្នី សម្ភាសន៍ លោកសេង សុភ័ណ ប្រធានគណៈកម្មាធិការ ដើម្បីសិទ្ធិបោះឆ្នោតរបស់ពលរដ្ឋខ្មែរនៅក្រៅប្រទេស៖