Can the US Bring Cambodia Back from the Brink?

The road to democratization in Cambodia is paved with obstacles.

In 1993, the United States believed Cambodia was on the path to democracy. In July of that year, Secretary of State Warren Christopher presented Hun Sen and Prince Norodom Ranariddh at an event at New York’s famed Waldorf Astoria Hotel as Cambodia’s co-premiers — and as the supposed guarantors of the United Nations’ $2 billion investment in the country.

Secretary Christopher could not have been more wrong.

American support helped empower Hun Sen, who had in fact lost the 1993 elections, but nonetheless forced his way into power. Hun Sen ousted Ranariddh in 1997 and soon after eliminated the largest rival party. He then took control of the country’s security forces. Hun Sen has since consolidated power, targeted political opponents and placed himself at the center of a nationwide web of patronage.

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