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Cambodia

Yearbook 2018

Cambodia. As expected, the July 29 parliamentary election was a grand victory for the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) and long-time Prime Minister Hun Sen. The party took home all 125 seats in the lower house. The outcome was given in advance since the largest opposition party CNRP (Cambodia's National Rescue Party) was banned in November 2017. Twenty parties were registered for the election. CNRP had called for a boycott, but according to the Election Commission, turnout was just over 82%. One possible sign of voter resistance was that approximately 9% of the ballots were invalid, compared with 1.6% in the 2013 election.

2018 Cambodia

According to Countryaah.com, UN Special Rapporteur for Cambodia, Rhona Smith, had warned that voters were threatened that support could be withdrawn if they did not vote for the CPP.

Two days before the election, 17 websites were blocked, including the radio companies Radio Free Asia (RFA) and Voice of America. Their reporting was alleged to be biased. The EU, the US and several individual organizations decided not to send any election observers. However, Japan provided assistance with the election, in part to try to counter China's strong influence in Cambodia, according to some analysts. Hun Sen met Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo in October in connection with an annual meeting between Japan and the five members of the Mekong Group.

A court ruled in September that CNRP leader Kem Sokha would be released on bail, a year after he was arrested for alleged treason. He was placed under house arrest pending trial where he faces 30 years in prison.

Kem Sokha's release followed in the footsteps of the pardon of some 20 political prisoners, including another former MP, and several government critics. Similarly, two former RFA journalists who were convicted of espionage were released. The releases were considered intended to dampen foreign criticism.

Parliament reaffirmed the CPP's victory in September and re-elected Hun Sen. The old government remained. In October, Parliament also rejected criticism from a committee of the Interparliamentary Union (IPU) for its decision to ban CNRP.

Hun Sen stressed in several speeches that the recognition of Cambodians was enough to make the election legitimate and rejected criticism from several Western governments. He also welcomed continued aid from China.

In October, the EU announced that Cambodia risks losing its duty-free status under the "Everything but Arms" program as a result of negative democratic developments. It would be costly as the EU accounts for 40% of Cambodia's exports. In 2018, the country's economy was expected to grow by 6.8% with strong contributions from textile exports and tourism according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

In November, Cambodia's UN-backed tribunal sentenced two of the leaders under the Red Khmer terrorist regime 1975-79 to life imprisonment for genocide, the first judges of its kind. Those convicted were Khieu Sampan, the 87-year-old former president, and former chief ideologist Nuon Chea, 92, sometimes known as "number two brother". During the terror of the Red Khmer, at least 1.7 million people are believed to have died when cities were emptied of their population and millions of people were forced to work in collective agriculture. Both were sentenced in 2014 to life for crimes against humanity.

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