Hun Sen starts ‘election’ campaign 

Cambodia’s ruling party starts campaigning today ahead of the July 29 election and it can be confident of victory after removing the opposition. 

The abolition and dismantling of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) were conducted by Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government and the obedient legal system.

His Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) is expected to win almost all the 125 National Assembly seats being contested.

CNRP leader Kem Sokha last year led the party into the commune election campaign and looked like a potential prime minister. But he is now in prison on charges of treason and has not been given a trial.

Under a new law, his alleged crime was used as the legal justification for the entire opposition’s dissolution, with many of its senior members fleeing overseas.

“This group never helped with anything. They have no willingness to push for the building and developing of the country,” said CPP spokesman Sok Eysan.

Hun Sen’s campaign will begin in Phnom Penh today and take him around the entire country in something closer to a coronation parade than a political contest. 

A former Khmer Rouge cadre, Hun Sen, 65, fled Cambodia in 1977 and returned with the Vietnamese military during that country’s war against the savage regime in 1979. He was first appointed foreign minister and was named prime minister in the Vietnamese-supported government in 1985.

The CPP faces 19 other parties, with many of them only recently established, leading the government to say democracy is now healthier in Cambodia. 

They are mostly under-resourced and largely unknown to voters while there is also the antiquated royalist Funcinpec party, which has little support. 

Media freedom 

Hun Sen also faces little media scrutiny after extending his crackdown on “fake news”. 

A directive that came into force this week aimed at fake news posted on websites and social media could see violators jailed for two years and fined US$1,000, according to the Khmer Times.

Websites are also now required to register with the information ministry.

A previous directive in May announced power to block media deemed a threat to national defence and security with specialised units assigned to monitor social-media posts.

In response to allegations that the government was strangling freedom of expression, interior ministry spokesman Pos Sovann said Cambodia was joining the global battle against fake news.

“Fake news is not good for a real democracy, we want good news for our people,” he said.

 

A CNRP gathering ahead of the 2013 election, which challenged Hun Sen’s longtime dominance. Picture credit: Wikimedia