Cambodia. During the year, Cambodia took several steps towards peace and reconciliation. In February, the fighting in the northwest between Second Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government forces and troops ceased to defy the deposed First Prime Minister Prince Norodom Ranariddh. In accordance with a Japanese peace plan, Ranariddh was searched in March in the capital Phnom Penh, sentenced in his absence to five years in prison for arms smuggling and 30 years for cooperating with the guerrilla Red Khmer, but was subsequently pardoned by his father King Norodom Sihanouk. Thus, in May, the Prince was able to return home from his exile in Thailand to this summer’s parliamentary elections.
According to Countryaah, the capital of Cambodia is Phnom Penh. Both the outside world and opposition questioned the integrity of the election campaign and accused the regime of harassment and murder. However, the July 26 elections were fairly peaceful with 39 parties notified and foreign observers in place. According to the Election Commission, Hun Sen and his ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) received 41% of the vote, against just under 32% for Ranariddh’s party (FUNCINPEC) and 14% for Sam Rainsy’s party (SRP). That gave the CPP over half of Parliament’s 122 seats – but not enough for the party to form government alone. Opposition leaders Ranariddh and Rainsy blamed the outcome of electoral fraud, and in September riot police clashed with protesters in Phnom Penh. Only in November did CPP and FUNCINPEC agree to form a coalition government with Hun Sen as prime minister. Ranariddh became President of Parliament.
At the border with Thailand, the Red Khmer continued to disintegrate, and in the spring, guerrillas were reported to have fewer than 1,000 men left under arms. An era finally came to an end when the guerrilla announced that Pol Pot (actually Saloth Sar) had died 70 years old in a heart attack on April 15. Journalists were allowed to visit the shed where the formerly feared leader, responsible for over one million people’s deaths during the 1975-79 terrorist violence, was lying. Demands for an impartial autopsy to secure identity and cause of death were ignored by the Red Khmer, who quickly cremated the body. However, judges believed that the dead was undoubtedly Pol Pot.
In December, two of Pol Pot’s closest men, Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea, jumped from the guerrilla after an agreement with Hun Sen. While many demanded a trial against them, they were welcomed in Phnom Penh by the Prime Minister, who then also allowed them to return to Pailin, the former Red Khmer headquarters in western Cambodia.
- Abbreviationfinder: What does KHM stand for in geography? Here, this 3 letter acronym refers to the country of Cambodia.
In September 2014, Cambodia and Australia signed an agreement for Cambodia to accept Australian refugees and asylum seekers. In return Australia pays Cambodia 40 million. US $ in aid over 4 years. Australia has the region’s most restrictive policy on refugees and asylum seekers and has for many years exported these to its neighboring countries. Cambodia was now included in this system.
The political tension between the CPP government and the largest opposition party CNRP increased through 2016 and 17, with the prospect of municipal elections in 2017 and parliamentary elections in 18. From May 2016, CNRP MPs regularly boycotted the meetings in parliament in protest of the legal steps taken against the party’s vice-president Kem Sokha, because he had not appeared as a witness in a trial. The party’s chairman, Sam Rainsy, continued in voluntary exile in France. In October, the government officially announced that it would not be granted entry into Cambodia. An unusual step, as the board had at the same time raised a number of charges against him during the year. In December, Rainsy and two of his assistants were sentenced to five years in prison in absentia. Several other CNRP members were also sentenced to prison sentences.
In July 2016, political commentator Kem Ley was shot and killed on the open street. He was frequently interviewed to the media for his views and criticism of the government. The authorities subsequently did not conduct a proper investigation into the case, although the killer was immediately caught, but were quick to take action against opposition politicians suggesting that it was the government itself that had ordered the murder.
In September, 39 countries issued a joint statement to the UN Human Rights Council, expressing their deep concern over the escalating threat to the legitimate activities of opposition parties and human rights organizations in Cambodia. At the same time, they called on the government to ensure free and fair elections in order to ensure the legitimacy of the next government. At the same time, the European Parliament issued a strong resolution condemning abuse and repression in the country. But the EU took no further steps to put pressure on the government.
In November 2018, the two prominent Khmer Rouge leaders Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea were sentenced to life imprisonment for the 1975-80 genocide. The now 92-year-old Chea was second-in-command at the time, while the now 87-year-old Samphan was head of state. There was both satisfaction with the judgments but also frustration. The ECCC court that sentenced them was established in 1997, and it took 9 years before the first case came to trial. Since then, the sentencing process has moved infinitely slowly forward. Critics pointed out that this was because the country’s current leaders, including Prime Minister Hun Sen himself had prominent post in Khmer Rouge. In other word
s, the court order was held back so as not to get too close to the current clique of power.