Cambodia’s postponement of an important military exercise with its closest ally has more to do with the county’s foreign policy and shifting relations with Washington than COVID-19.
Cambodia has expanded government monitoring of social media to include apps like TikTok, WhatsApp and Telegram in a bid to target fake news. Though intended in part to combat misinformation about COVID-19, the announcement has raised concerns about a new wave of censorship of independent media and political opposition in the country.
As Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen suppresses political opponents in an attempt to protect his power and prepare for the next general election, many Southeast Asian countries, particularly Thailand, are facilitating his political repression.
After years of delay, Cambodia began extracting oil for the first time in December 2020, signaling a new era for the country’s economy.
It is unclear if Cambodia’s apparent criticism of Chinese coronavirus vaccines is meant to refute the country’s reputation as China’s proxy. If that is the case, then Cambodia needs to do far more to introduce balance to its foreign policy.
Two Cambodian rappers face charges of inciting social unrest as the government continues its crackdown on dissent. Their cases, like many others in Cambodia, show the reach of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s authoritarianism but also point to the growing role of hip-hop in social movements in Southeast Asia.
The EU tried to push Cambodia on human rights by leveraging its preferential trade program. In partially withdrawing the program, it has entered a new phase of relations with the Hun Sen government.
The impending return of Cambodia’s exiled opposition won’t bring democracy, but it will cement the ruling government’s status as an illegitimate, authoritarian regime.
The Cambodian government plans to eliminate six public holidays, including International Human Rights Day, in a move to attract investors. But the ploy has drawn criticism from civil society and suggests the government will refuse to engage with the EU on domestic rights issues.
A UN special rapporteur is urging the Cambodian government to improve its plans for inclusive development, protect freedoms of assembly and expression, and end unjust detentions.