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against dissent, legal actions or clubbing

General elections have been scheduled for July, but these days the prime minister explained how he will deal with dissent, once again showing that the country is not heading towards democracy. Cambodia has been ASEAN’s rotating president for the past year, causing concern in the international community, and little will change when Indonesia assumes the presidency.

Phnom Penh () – After decades of controlling the country with an iron fist, Prime Minister Hun Sen has challenged anyone to criticize his party, the Cambodian People, ahead of the elections scheduled for next July, and he pointed to what the opposition believes are the two methods the autocrat intends to use to eliminate any dissent: “Which do you prefer? Face legal action in court or have me take PPC supporters out on the streets to be beaten to a pulp?” the Cambodian leader asked provocatively.

The resort to violence to persecute those who criticize the regime has been a constant during the Hun Sen government. In 2017 he dissolved the Cambodia National Rescue Party, (CNRP), the only remaining opposition party. Where the pressure, threats, jail or exile of the opponents did not arrive, a judicial power has arrived that responds to the will (and reprisals) of the leader. Both former CNRP president Sam Rainsy and his deputy Mu Sochua have been forced to live in exile, while Kem Sokha, who remained in the country and was jailed in 2017, was released two years later. with the obligation not to leave the country or participate in political activities while a treason case is open.

“Although general elections in Cambodia are approaching, ASEAN [Asociación de Naciones del Sudeste Asiático] and the entire international community should not be fooled into thinking that it can be a democratic process, considering the conditions in the country,” said Mercy Barends, a member of the Indonesian House of Representatives and an ASEAN parliamentarian for human rights. . “They should put more pressure on the Cambodian government to release political prisoners unconditionally, to end the campaign of persecution against the opposition and to act in accordance with the provisions of the Paris Peace Agreement, signed in 1991 and conceived to lead the country on the democratic path.”

Throughout the past year, Cambodia has held the rotating ASEAN presidency, the motto of which was “ASEAN ACT: Addressing Challenges Together.” However, Hun Sen’s relations with the ruling military junta in Myanmar (beginning with his visit to the Burmese capital Naypyidaw at the beginning of his term), the organization’s tepid stance on the conflict in Ukraine and the difficulties in defining an unequivocal position vis-à-vis China while maintaining a strategic ambiguity towards Taiwan, have heightened international pressure and suspicion. The Indonesian presidency, which began with the summit on November 13, 2022, could bring more clarity regarding the Association’s democratic identity and greater commitment to counter authoritarian impulses within it.



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