Cambodia and Thailand: A Story of Swapping Transitions, or Something Else?

A closer look at the evolution of regime dynamics in the two countries in recent years.

In 2017, Cambodia dissolved its opposition party, the Cambodia National Rescue Party, ending 24 years of nominal democracy and transitioning into a regime that’s been called an “outright dictatorship” and a “de facto one-party state.”

Soon after, in 2019, its western neighbor Thailand held its first election since a 2014 coup reverted the country to a military dictatorship. While citizens were allowed to vote for the first time in five years, the electoral system was heavily skewed in the military’s favor, allowing it to maintain control despite relatively poor election results.

In a sense, the countries reversed their roles: Cambodia went from a flawed democracy with an uneven playing field to a one-party state, while Thailand went from military rule to a flawed democracy with an uneven playing field.

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