Cambodia has, to date, largely avoided the ravages of the ongoing global coronavirus pandemic. It has not, however, managed to avoid what Rob Berschinski and Reece Pelley have referred to as the “parallel pandemic” of using the spread of the virus “as a pretext to enact emergency measures that stifle dissent, sideline political opposition, and consolidate power.”
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and his ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) (Cambodia remains a nominal monarchy although royal powers are now predominantly ceremonial in nature) have taken advantage of the ongoing pandemic in order to push through a state of emergency bill that creates additional levers through which ruling elites can utilize their dominance of legislative, executive, and judicial powers to exercise social control and maintain power. All this while Cambodia’s actual infection rate has remained extremely low.
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