A friend writes in Foreign Policy Journal:
The End of Nominal Democracy in Cambodia
By Antonio Graceffo | Sep 15, 2017
Until recently, most Cambodia observers would have tentatively applied the term “democracy” to the country’s political system. While general elections are held every five years, the ruling party always wins. Effectively, the country has been a one-party system since 1979, and Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) has been documented as using manipulation and bully tactics (including murder), to maintain its firm grip on power.
Problem is, the opposition party started making serious gains in the 2013 general elections and then in the 2017 local elections. And that wouldn’t do at all:
However, unwilling to relinquish the CPP’s grip on power, Hun Sen in late August 2017 began an intense campaign of clamping down on Cambodia’s nominal democracy.
To this end, Prime Minister Hun Sen has begun restricting freedom of speech and quelling potential voices of opposition. The opposition leader, Kem Sokha was arrested for treason in late August, with the CPP accusing him of participating in a US backed plot to overthrow the government. […]
The Cambodian Daily, one of two major English language newspapers, that was renowned for its excellent coverage of the country’s political situation, has been shut down under accusations of tax evasion.
(More on the closing of The Cambodia Daily here.)
Additionally, the Information Ministry has closed down 19 radio stations, including Voice of Democracy (VOD), Voice of America (VOA), and Radio Free Asia (RFA). The Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan has accused VOD director Pa Nguon Teang of being a foreign agent. Additionally, The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation ordered the closure of the US backed National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the expulsion of its staff.
In just over a week, Graceffo writes, “Hun Sen’s government has set Cambodian democracy back decades and cemented the CPP as the dominant force of Cambodian politics.”
And the bruised, staggering “end of history” thesis takes another solid punch in the mouth.