The World Today for May 31, 2023

NEED TO KNOW

Villains

CAMBODIA

In a final decision, Cambodia’s Constitutional Council recently rejected the claims of opposition politicians with the Candlelight Party who said they should be allowed to stand for election in July.

They had been disqualified because of incorrectly submitted registration papers, officials said.

The council’s decision means the ruling Cambodian People’s Party of Prime Minister Hun Sen will run unopposed, reported Reuters. “I think that democracy in Cambodia … it’s dead,” Candlelight Party leader Teav Vannol told Al Jazeera after the ruling. “Democracy is dead in Cambodia. That’s how I feel.”

Hun has been cracking down on his rivals for years. In 2017, for example, he dissolved the Cambodia National Rescue Party, the main opposition force at the time. He has also imprisoned numerous leaders of that party and driven others into exile. The prime minister has also unfairly charged labor leaders, dissidents, and others who might question his rule, added Human Rights Watch. His security forces recently arrested farmers, for example, because authorities suspected they might be organizing a peasant revolution, the Diplomat explained.

While Cambodia is technically a democracy, Hun, 70, is an authoritarian who has run the country for 38 years, the Associated Press wrote. His son, Hun Manet, who runs the army, is expected to take his father’s place in the near future.

His iron grip on power stems in part from the chaos and violence that gripped the region in the 1970s when the Cold War was in full swing, including the violence that spilled over into Cambodia during the US-Vietnam War, and the bloody regime of communist leader Pol Pot who killed a million people with his genocidal schemes.

Recently, conservatives at publications like the Washington Times hailed the former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who celebrated his centennial birthday on May 27, as “the sage of American diplomats, [the] embodiment of realpolitik.”

But The Intercept recently published a series of articles showing how Kissinger’s actions might have led to many more deaths in Cambodia than historians previously believed possible. Citing declassified diplomatic telegrams, the news agency found that American bombers, for example, dropped bombs on the Cambodian village of Neak Luong, killing many more civilians than many initially thought.

Perhaps Hun wants to bring peace and prosperity to his country so that his son can take over and enjoy the benefit of a strong economy as he enacts other reforms. The World Bank, however, while praising Cambodia for reducing poverty, warned that the pandemic has set the country back in its efforts to grow the economy.

It’s not just the coronavirus that has been preventing Cambodia from reaching its full potential.

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