Cambodia and the great powers

In the second installment in our eight-week partnership with Future Forum looking at Cambodia in the decades to come, we examine the Kingdom's attempts to navigate the choppy waters of great power politics that threatens to submerge its domestic affairs and jeopardise its future.

Striding across the verandah of his Phnom Penh home on November 11, Cambodia’s embattled opposition leader Kem Sokha stuck out a hand towards US Ambassador W. Patrick Murphy, the two men sharing a few inaudible pleasantries during their quick grip-and-grin after Murphy’s official car had edged through Sokha’s front gate.

Back at the doorway an hour later, Sokha apologised to the waiting media for not commenting. Though a local court freed him from house arrest the weekend before, he remains barred from politics due to treason charges, so was reluctant to discuss his meeting with Murphy.

Sokha’s plight, it seems, is to be a pawn in the Cambodian government’s game with the big powers it must do business with – his release likely an attempt by nervous authorities to gainsay any European Union (EU) move to cut the country’s preferential market access, known as “Everything But Arms (EBA)”, to the 28-member bloc.

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