A year on from elections that cemented its control over national politics, Cambodia’s powerful leadership remains determined to guide the country down an overtly authoritarian path. Many would have expected some respite after the international community responded to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s heavily gamed victory in July 2018 with condemnation and retributive sanctions. Instead, his Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) only defiantly doubled-down in their bid to secure absolute dominance.
In lead-up to last year’s polls, the CPP systematically undermined the country’s then nascent democracy. It intimidated NGOs, shuttered independent media outlets, and arrested the opposition leader, Kem Sokha, on dubious charges. The party subsequently used its sway with the country’s highest court to dissolve his growingly popular Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP). Unsurprisingly, the CPP then took all parliamentary seats on offer in the polls. Facing criticism following the flawed vote, Hun Sen released a number of high profile political activists, including Kem Sokha, though he is now under house arrest.