Rift between Cambodia and the West over de-democratisation deepens

The war of words between Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen and representatives of Western organisations intensified in the past weeks, with Hun Sen boasting that Cambodia was “self-sufficient” and did not need the support of outside countries.

His response came after heavy criticism from the United Nations and other Western democracy groups over the ongoing totalitarian transformation of politics in Cambodia, his outright ban of the largest opposition party and the arrest of its president Kem Sokha ahead of general elections next year, which wiped out any noteworthy alternative to the ruing Cambodian People’s Party.

Kem Sokha’s daughter, Kem Monovithya, in  latest move asked the United Nations for a review of Cambodia’s membership in the global body, a demand echoed by Pa Ngoun Teang, founder and executive director of the Cambodian Center for Independent Media, who highlighted increasing restrictions on the freedom of the press.

Since the dissolution of the opposition party, the US and EU have pulled funding for the upcoming national elections, and the former has applied visa sanctions on certain Cambodian government officials.

As a reaction, Hun Sen accused the US, the EU and some international NGOs and media outlets of backing a “conspiracy” to overthrow the Cambodian government.

“Cambodia is not the one who needs anyone’s oxygen to breath. Cambodia is like a person who has two nostrils and one mouth to breathe,” he said, adding that “We don’t need any country or any group to destroy peace in our country anymore,” he said, claiming that 90 per cent of the population stood behind him.

However, critics say that Cambodia is unlikely to survive economically on its own, even though it currently has in fact a strong financial backing from China which is Hun Sen”s best disaster insurance.

Political analyst Meas Nee said that Cambodia needs partnerships with foreign countries. It cannot, he added, survive with only Chinese support to the exclusion of the West.

“If we don’t need oxygen from foreign countries, then at least we need to do businesses with them… We cannot say that we can live without being [economically] dependent on other countries. We need the investment; we need to work with the world,” he said.

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The war of words between Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen and representatives of Western organisations intensified in the past weeks, with Hun Sen boasting that Cambodia was “self-sufficient” and did not need the support of outside countries.

The war of words between Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen and representatives of Western organisations intensified in the past weeks, with Hun Sen boasting that Cambodia was “self-sufficient” and did not need the support of outside countries.

His response came after heavy criticism from the United Nations and other Western democracy groups over the ongoing totalitarian transformation of politics in Cambodia, his outright ban of the largest opposition party and the arrest of its president Kem Sokha ahead of general elections next year, which wiped out any noteworthy alternative to the ruing Cambodian People’s Party.

Kem Sokha’s daughter, Kem Monovithya, in  latest move asked the United Nations for a review of Cambodia’s membership in the global body, a demand echoed by Pa Ngoun Teang, founder and executive director of the Cambodian Center for Independent Media, who highlighted increasing restrictions on the freedom of the press.

Since the dissolution of the opposition party, the US and EU have pulled funding for the upcoming national elections, and the former has applied visa sanctions on certain Cambodian government officials.

As a reaction, Hun Sen accused the US, the EU and some international NGOs and media outlets of backing a “conspiracy” to overthrow the Cambodian government.

“Cambodia is not the one who needs anyone’s oxygen to breath. Cambodia is like a person who has two nostrils and one mouth to breathe,” he said, adding that “We don’t need any country or any group to destroy peace in our country anymore,” he said, claiming that 90 per cent of the population stood behind him.

However, critics say that Cambodia is unlikely to survive economically on its own, even though it currently has in fact a strong financial backing from China which is Hun Sen”s best disaster insurance.

Political analyst Meas Nee said that Cambodia needs partnerships with foreign countries. It cannot, he added, survive with only Chinese support to the exclusion of the West.

“If we don’t need oxygen from foreign countries, then at least we need to do businesses with them… We cannot say that we can live without being [economically] dependent on other countries. We need the investment; we need to work with the world,” he said.

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