Cambodia and Phnom Penh were different places 10 years ago. Cambodia Daily headlines from January 2009 include:
- Journalist Alleges Officer Opened Fire on Him
- Municipality Defends Dey Krahorm Evictions
- Trade in Valuable Khmer Antiquities Flourishes on the Internet
- French Court Convicts Sam Rainsy of Defamation
- 2008 Human Rights Violations Increase by 25%, Group Says
- Local Tycoons Hand Out Cash To the Military and City Police
- Son of Provincial Police Chief Escapes Charges in Accident
- GDP Growth Slowest in Six Years, Officials Say
- Ke Kim Yan Removed as RCAF Chief
- Angkor, Siem Reap See Fewer Visitors in 2008
Ten years on, however, the Kingdom’s primary challenges persist. Human Rights Watch, in its 2009 World Report, observed:
Cambodia continued its drift toward authoritarianism in 2008 as Prime Minister Hun Sen and his Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) consolidated power through flawed national elections in July. The elections were criticised by the European Union and the United Nations special representative for human rights in Cambodia for failing to meet international standards.
Authorities continue to use the criminal justice system to silence critics. Human rights defenders, journalists, trade unionists, and opposition party members face intimidation, violence, spurious legal action, imprisonment, and even death. Endemic impunity, rampant corruption, and illegal plundering of natural resources remain pressing issues.
Things have only deteriorated since. The Economist Intelligence Unit labeled Cambodia an “authoritarian regime” in its 2018 Democracy Index. The main difference now is that, after three decades of little more than finger wagging, donor countries from the West seem prepared to finally take action.