The Battle for Democracy: A Look at Thailand and Cambodia’s 2023 Elections

Will the two elections result in the further erosion of democratic and human rights norms, or will they produce a glimmer of hope?

Thailand and Cambodia, two neighboring countries in Southeast Asia, are preparing to hold general elections this year. Thailand is scheduled to hold its polls on May 14, while Cambodia will follow on July 23.

In Thailand, the military-dominated government led by the Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) has been employing authoritarian tactics against dissidents, including the use of arbitrary detention and lese-majeste charges. The country experienced mass anti-government protests in 2020-2021 that were fueled by the military’s continued hold on power and the monarchy’s involvement in governance, but the movement has since lost its momentum.

In Cambodia, the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) led by Prime Minister Hun Sen has dominated the political system for nearly four decades. Since the 2018 elections, the parliament has been fully controlled by the ruling party following the court-ordered dissolution of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP). In recent years, Hun Sen’s government has intensified its repression of the opposition, civil society activists, and independent media with intimidation and politically motivated prosecutions.

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