In the face of growing international pressure aiming to re-establish democracy in Cambodia, Prime Minister Hun Sen has found no better response than to adopt new measures to neutralize the final elements of the opposition and to make restoring democracy even more difficult.
This is a real insult to the international community, notably the European Union, which is threatening the Phnom Penh regime with commercial sanctions if Hun Sen does not cancel the repressive measures taken since 2017, notably the dissolution of the only opposition party represented in the National Assembly, the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP).
Among new repressive measures, Hun Sen on 13 December forced through an amendment to the Law on Political Parties which punishes with prison terms of two and a half years the 118 former CNRP leaders if they do not submissively and obediently request him to restore their political rights. These very same rights were abolished when the CNRP was dissolved by the Supreme Court on 16 November 2017. This brand of Stalinism has taken a Kafkaesque turn.*
Hun Sen is pursuing two objectives with this selective, conditional and controlled rehabilitation of his political opponents: to deceive the international community and to divide or even destroy the CNRP, whose President, Kem Sokha, remains under house arrest, while its prominent members have been forced into exile.
* From the Phnom Penh Post of 13 December 2018:
Hun Sen warned that barred politicians could face prison as well as have a chance of having their bans lifted when the proposed amendment takes effect. “People need to bear in mind that those opposing the Supreme Court’s verdict will not get political rights and will face jail because a violation of a Supreme Court verdict will result in a sentence of two-and-a-half-years in prison after the law change takes effect”, the Prime Minister said.