VJIL Digest

November 13, 2018

What Hun Sen’s Re-Election Means for the Fate of Cambodian Justice

By Sara Ochs

Hun Sen’s re-election on July 29, 2018, marks his thirty-third year as Cambodia’s prime minister.  As the world’s sixth-longest-serving political leader, Hun Sen has sustained his lengthy tenure primarily through political intimidation, violence, and oppression.  In this most recent election, Hun Sen’s victory came after a prolonged crackdown on independent and U.S.-backed media outlets and organizations.  In 2017, Cambodia’s Supreme Court – at Hun Sen’s behest – dissolved the nation’s main opposition party, the Cambodia National Rescue Party (the “CNRP”), on unsupported allegations that the CNRP was conspiring with the United States to overthrow the Hun Sen government.  As part of this dissolution, CNRP officials were stripped of their seats in the National Assembly and banned from engaging in any political activity for five years.  Hun Sen also directed authorities to arrest the CNRP leader, Kem Sokha, on charges of treason.  Kem Sokha’s charges stemmed from similar government-promulgated allegations that he was conspiring with the United States to engineer an uprising against Hun Sen.  Human rights groups have denounced this particularly oppressive period of Hun Sen’s reign as the “death of democracy” in Cambodia, ultimately culminating in his July 2018 “sham” re-election.

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