Citing COVID-19 outbreak, National Assembly in which PM Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party holds all 125 seats 10 April unanimously passed state of emergency law, which allows govt to put in place broad range of measures in times of war or pandemics, including restrictions on people’s movement, communications, and distribution of information, with penalties of up to ten years imprisonment. Constitutional Council 27 April approved law, despite public criticism that it could be used to restrict civil and political freedoms. NGO Human Rights Watch 29 April reported that authorities “are using the Covid-19 pandemic to carry out arbitrary arrests of opposition supporters and govt critics”, said that police had arrested at least 30 people for allegedly spreading false information and other offenses between Jan and April, including one third linked to now-dissolved opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party.
The violent border clashes between Thailand and Cambodia earlier this year have challenged the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) to turn its rhetoric into action, but to achieve peace and security more robust diplomacy is required to end a still unresolved conflict.
Almost a decade after the 1991 Paris Peace Agreements, Cambodia is at peace and the government is at last secure enough to contemplate the trials of some Khmer Rouge leaders.
The international community collectively heaved a sigh of relief when Cambodia’s rival factions moved back from the brink of disaster and agreed to form a fresh coalition government in November 1998 after weeks of violent protests and political deadlock.
Cambodia’s electoral process re-lit the candle of democracy that had first flickered into flame with the restoration of peace in 1991, after more than two decades of strife.
Cambodia is set to take to the polls in barely six weeks time, with some fearing the elections will cement in place a de facto dictatorship and others seeing them as the last chance to ensure that the country’s fledgling democratic process remains on track.
Originally published in The Jakarta Post