Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has forced Sam Rainsy to resign from the leadership of Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP).
Hun Sen’s new law would dissolve any political party that’s leader is convicted of a crime. Due to a number of defamation charges, Rainsy has been in self-imposed exile in Paris to avoid arrest.
While it was never going to be easy for Rainsy to manage the upcoming political campaigns from France, the resignation still represents a large blow to the CNRP as they head in to the communal elections set for 4 June 2017 and the general elections in July 2018. The last general election in 2013 saw the CNRP return 55 out of the 123 available seats. All other seats were won by the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), led by Hun Sen.
The 2013 results saw the greatest ever shift away from the CPP, but Rainsy’s resignation suggests that this trend will not continue. He was the figurehead of the party, often calling the Prime Minister out on his more authoritarian policies. The week before his resignation, Rainsy stated that he planned to sue Prime Minister Hun Sen in the International Criminal Court over the ‘alleged’ failed plan to create a militarised border between Cambodia and Thailand during the late 1970s and the early 1980s.
Regardless of whether this was political posturing or an actual move to challenge the Prime Minister, it seems that Hun Sen has won this round of political manoeuvring.
Another victory for the CPP would be especially good for China, who has been strengthening ties with Cambodia. Rainsy has been deeply critical of China’s investments, stating in late October 2016 that the China–Cambodia relationship has caused corruption and was ‘easy money’ for the government, yet had done little to help Cambodia’s economy.
The Lower Sesan 2 Dam exemplifies this. It is primarily funded by the Chinese state-owned company HydroLancang working in partnership with the Cambodian firm Royal Group. Despite the apparent economic advantages, little consideration has been given to the 5000 people, mostly from ethnic minorities, who are likely to be evicted from their homes. A further 40,000 people who live downstream are projected to lose the fishing stocks that they rely on both for food and for trade.
The dam also threatens key migration routes for fish and according to a 2012 study, it is the most damaging of all the dams proposed on the Mekong’s tributaries in Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos between now and 2030. The Cambodian government’s environmental assessment report of the dam fails to take this into account, and no compensation will be provided to affected citizens.
Transparency International’s 2015 Corruption Perceptions Index ranks Cambodia 150th out of the 168 countries surveyed and the most corrupt in ASEAN. Corruption in Cambodia is an inherent problem, hindering its ability to deal with international institutions and form bilateral relationships with many Western nations. As such, China is an easy source of money.
Cambodia drastically needs the money to invest in its infrastructure, but international institutions and Western nations often attach conditions to their loans concerning corruption and Cambodia’s human rights record. China does none of that, offering money with no explicit strings attached.
Yet this money does come with unspoken expectations. These expectations can be seen through Cambodia’s support of China’s South China Sea claim in ASEAN as well as reducing public support of the United States and scrapping of joint military exercises. These actions strengthen the ties between Cambodia and China, giving Cambodia access to the privileges that come with having a ‘great power’ ally.
It is also worth considering the way in which Rainsy was removed from political power. The introduction of a new law forcing the dissolution of the CNRP if Rainsy remained leader seems to emulate authoritarian processes. While China does not hold a monopoly on authoritarianism, this open action from Hun Sen is more closely aligned with Chinese methods than what would be expected in an officially democratic nation like Cambodia.
The CNRP is the voice in Cambodia for greater liberalism and further integration into the global market. It has been critical of the ‘no strings attached’ donations from China, so Hun Sen’s plan to weaken it will likely be appreciated by Beijing. The removal of a key CPP critic from a position of political power through open authoritarian methods is a clear rejection of the liberal international norms promoted by the West.
Author: Andrew Shearer, University of Exeter
Cambodia faces EU sanctions over human right abuses
In 2018, exports to the European Union accounted for more than a third of Cambodia’s total exports and were valued at €4.9 billion (US$5.5 billion), of which 99 per cent were eligible for EBA preferential duties
In February 2019, the European Union launched an 18-month process over whether or not to maintain Cambodia’s preferential access to the EU market under the Everything But Arms (EBA) trade scheme.(more…)
Cambodia-Thailand trade to develop further
Cambodia and Thailand have agreed to develop more strategies to boost bilateral trade, to achieve a target of USD 15 billion by 2020.
Cambodia and Thailand have agreed to develop more strategies to boost bilateral trade, cross border development and investment to achieve a target of USD 15 billion in trade between the two ASEAN neighbors by 2020.(more…)
Rice and poverty in the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS)
Nearly 60 million of them are involved in rice production, growing collectively over 44% of the world’s rice
TTM to focus on “Making the World Better Place through Travel”
Under the theme of “Making the World a Better Place through Travel”, the TTM Talk will feature a line-up of...
Thai Economy likely to miss the 3.5% growth target
Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak said the global economic slowdown hasweakened exports and reduced domestic consumption
Google shuts down Huawei’s access to Android updates after US blacklist
Holders of current Huawei smartphones with Google apps, however, will continue to be able to use and download app updates...
Drivers of Asia Pacific office space demand in 2019 remain strong
More employers plan to increase rather than decrease staffing levels in most Asia Pacific countries, with employers in Japan reporting...
First-home stimulus measure may have limited impact on Thailand’s housing market
The first-home buyers who make less than 25,000 baht per month however will not benefit from this scheme.
- Tech6 days ago
Thailand to use Biometrics scan to identify travellers
- Tourism2 weeks ago
Thailand extends free visa-on-arrival until 31 October 2019
- Business2 weeks ago
Political uncertainty weighs on Thailand’s consumer confidence
- Property1 week ago
Property slowdown looms over Thai market
- Business1 week ago
Thailand cooperates with Indonesia to push creative industries
- Corporate1 week ago
Challenges and opportunities await Thai businesses to reduce plastic use
- Corporate1 week ago
Flexible workspace key role in company’s success
- Business1 week ago
Thailand to become 4th largest production base for EV batteries in Asia