Cambodia's amended law

Cambodia's amended law

On 20 Feb 17, Cambodia’s Parliament approved legal changes that effectively bars the main opposition leader from participating in politics. The legislation prevents politicians with convictions from running for office. It also allows the Cambodian Supreme Court to dissolve political parties, whose leaders have criminal convictions.

Is Political freedom in this UN-aided country threatened?

On 20 Feb 17, Cambodia’s Parliament approved legal changes that effectively bars the main opposition leader from participating in politics. The legislation prevents politicians with convictions from running for office. It also allows the Cambodian Supreme Court to dissolve political parties, whose leaders have criminal convictions.

The controversial amendments were passed unanimously by the ruling party, after the Opposition boycotted the 20 Feb 17 vote. The bill shall now be passed by the Senate, where its’ passage is considered a mere formality.

Is the CPP Suffering from Anti-incumbency?

PM Hun Sen’s ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) has been ruling the country, since 1993 (24 years). The last election was conducted in 2013, where the CPP won only 68 seats in comparison to the Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP), which won 55 seats. The next General Election is due in 2018 and the CPP has been receiving declining support, on account of anti-incumbency, after 24 years of rule.

Who is the Main Opposition Leader?

Sam Rainsy is the leader of the CNRP. Earlier this month he stepped down, ahead of the changes and saying he wanted to protect the Party. He is currently living in France to avoid defamation charges that he says are politically motivated.

Ghosts of the Past

Cambodia has a turbulent history, including the despotic rule by Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge (1976-79). During the Pol Pot regime, private ownership was disallowed by law and people were forced to live in communes. It is estimated that 1.5 to 3 million people (25-50% of the total population) starved or were killed in Cambodia’s infamous killing fields. In 1992-93, United Nations Transitional Authority (UNTAC) administered Cambodia, under a special mandate, restoring democratic rule under a constitution.

Assessment

UNTAC was an investment by the international community, in the future of Cambodia. After 24 years in power, PM Hun Sen and the CPP, would be apprehensive about relinquishing political power. While debarring convicted criminals from holding public office could be an acceptable democratic standard, the power to dissolve political parties is certainly unusual. Japan, the US and India were amongst the many donor countries that invested in the UNTAC. Cambodia should assure their well-wishers that the efforts of the international community shall not be wasted, by attempts to subvert legitimate democratic processes.

Comments