See More on Facebook

Analysis, News, Politics

Hun Sen’s victory means more of the same for Cambodia

Hun Sen’s electoral victory was marred by controversy but the win signals closer ties between Cambodia and China.


Written by

Updated: July 31, 2018

Cambodian voters went to the polls on Sunday and handed Prime Minister Hun Sen, Asia’s longest-serving leader, another five years in power in a controversial election that many observers deemed a “sham”.

It was a landslide victory. Early estimates indicate that Hun Sen’s party, the Cambodian People’s Party, may in fact have won every single seat in the National Assembly which would mean the country is now, effectively, a single-party state.

The results of the election should come as no surprise to anyone who has been following Cambodian politics for the past year. The only viable opposition party was dissolved by court order in November of 2017, and dissenting voices have been systematically silenced as part of an ongoing crackdown on critical media and civil society.

Former leaders of that opposition party, the Cambodia National Rescue Party, had called for a boycott of the election, asking that voters keep a clean finger, a reference to the indelible ink applied to the index finger of those that cast a ballot. What Hun Sen craved most from this election was legitimacy, and a low turnout would have robbed him of that.

Hun Sen, and those that support him, will point to the numbers from election day and claim they equal a mandate. The National Election Commission has reported that around 80 percent of registered voters cast ballots. But that figure belies several key details.

Leading up to the election there were widespread reports of voter intimidation—with bosses telling workers they would be punished if they did not come back to work with an inked finger, and some local authorities reportedly threatening to deny essential government services to election boycotters.

Some reports indicated that Cambodians who felt they had no option but to get their finger inked, would show up to polls only to spoil their ballot. Indeed early statistics indicate that up to 9 percent of the ballots have been counted as spoiled—the ballot crossed out entirely, every box checked, the ballot left empty, etc. In former CNRP strongholds like Phnom Penh that number was even higher. There, 14.4 percent of votes cast were invalid, a huge spike compared to just 0.99 percent in 2013.

In fact, the entity that got the second-most votes after the CPP—and ahead of the 19 other minor parties that were on the ballot—was the “spoiled vote party”.

And since credible third-party observers refused to take part in the process, all this took place under the questionable eyes of what some experts have labeled “zombie election monitors”.

For the people of Cambodia, five more years under Hun will likely bring about an intensification of the status quo. Further limitation on free speech and the free press, economic development that largely benefits the country’s wealthy elite and fails to trickle down to the average Cambodian, and a government that is even less accountable to its citizens.

And for the wider region, it is expected that the next half-decade will see an even closer relationship between Cambodia and China. This election, with all its controversy, has driven the wedge between Cambodia and the United States and Europe even deeper. And Cambodia is expected to be pulled even further into China’s orbit if the country is cut off from the tariff-free access to American and European markets it currently enjoys.

China has not been subtle in its assessment that a Hun Sen victory is in its best interest—the Chinese ambassador was given a prominent position on the stage for at least one CPP campaign rally. He did not attend the rallies of any of the other minor parties on the ballot. Cambodia gets financial support out of this arrangement in the form of loans and investment for large-scale infrastructure projects and China gets a vocal champion for its strategy in the region.

Hun Sen has indicated that these next five years won’t be the end of his rule. In speeches, he says that he intends to stay on as Prime Minister for at least a decade longer. And beyond that, it is expected that he will do everything within his ever-expanding powers to see that the next leader of Cambodia comes from his own family.

The most likely outcome is that he will try to pass the torch to one of his sons, either Hun Many, 35, who currently runs the CPP’s youth wing, or his eldest, Hun Manet, 40, who has risen through the ranks of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces and is now a four-star general.



Enjoyed this story? Share it.


About the Author: ANN’s Board representative Mr Zhou Li, Editor-in-Chief and Publisher of China Daily Asia Pacific based in Hong Kong, was recently appointed Deputy Editor-in-Chief of China Daily Group

Eastern Briefings

All you need to know about Asia


Our Eastern Briefings Newsletter presents curated stories from 22 Asian newspapers from South, Southeast and Northeast Asia.

Sign up and stay updated with the latest news.



By providing us with your email address, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

View Today's Newsletter Here

Analysis, News, Politics

Taiwan: 720,000 people registered for purchasing face masks online

Taiwan’s Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) on Friday announced that more than 722,000 people — 600,000 using the NHI app and 122,000 more using the Emask system — had successfully registered for purchasing face masks as of 1 p.m. Asked about people who have reportedly tried to register again, CECC Chief Commander Chen Shih-chung called on the public to stop, stressing that authorities are committed to providing a set of face masks to each user prior to March 18, the official deadline for registration. Regarding some reported phone scams on payment requirements for face masks, Chen asked users to remain vigilant. Access is limited to Taiwan residents who need to register their NHI number, obtain proper digital certification and downloa


By Asia News Network
March 13, 2020

Analysis, News, Politics

Covid-19 outbreak will continue for a year or longer; more stringent measures may need to be put in place, says PM Lee

 In a video address on his social media channels, PM Lee emphasised that the situation in Singapore remains under control. The Covid-19 outbreak will continue for some time – a year, and maybe longer – said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in his second national address on the situation on Thursday (March 12). But if Singaporeans keep up their guard and take practical precautions, the country will be able to keep its economy going and people will be able to carry on with their daily lives, he said. In a video address on his social media channels, PM Lee emphasised that the situation in Singapore remains under control. The disease outbreak response level will not be stepped up to red, the highest level, he said. It is c


By The Straits Times
March 13, 2020

Analysis, News, Politics

Foreigners play their part in Shanghai’s epidemic prevention

 Expat volunteers have been active in helping the city overcome the COVID-19 outbreak. Twelve foreign residents in Shanghai have joined a volunteer team to help with the city’s COVID-19 prevention and control. Located in Minhang district, the team was established on Feb 10 by the Jinfeng International Community Development Association, which aims to promote the development of Huacao town and the Jinfeng International Community by organising themed activities and public welfare events. Pakistani Amir Shafiq Khan joined the team to give back. “It’s easy to run away to another country, but I felt that my family and I should contribute to China in this difficult time as it has always offered opportunities to us,” says Khan, who has lived in


By China Daily
March 13, 2020

Analysis, News, Politics

Asian stock markets take cue from US to hit fresh lows

ST Index careens into bear territory for the first time since January 2016 Many stock markets across Asia, including in Singapore, followed the United States into bear territory after US President Donald Trump stopped short of offering a detailed rescue package as the coronavirus outbreak was declared a global pandemic. Adding to fears, oil prices slumped further. The Straits Times Index (STI) careened into bear territory for the first time since January 2016. The last time that the STI was in a bear market – where stocks have fallen at least 20 per cent from their recent high – was during the oil price rout in 2016. The STI finished down 3.77 per cent yesterday, and more than 21 per cent down from a peak of 3,407.02 on April 29 last year.


By The Straits Times
March 13, 2020

Analysis, News, Politics

askST: Can coronavirus be spread by sweat, or via activities such as singing?

There is currently no evidence showing that the virus can be transmitted through one’s perspiration. Concerns have been raised over social activities such as singing and exercising in the light of the coronavirus outbreak. As of Wednesday (March 11), Singapore’s largest Safra Jurong cluster of confirmed coronavirus cases went up to 40, against a total of 178 cases. The patients, who had attended a Feb 15 Chinese New Year celebration held in the ballroom of Joy Garden restaurant at Safra Jurong, are members of a Hokkien singing group. This has raised concerns as to whether the disease, known as Covid-19, can be transmitted through singing. Similar concerns have been expressed about whether the virus can be spread through sweat b


By The Straits Times
March 12, 2020

Analysis, News, Politics

Bangladesh to benefit from coronavirus fallout: survey

Study says globally renowned companies are planning to shift work orders from China to other Asian countries, including Bangladesh. Bangladesh will benefit from the fallout of the coronavirus as most of the globally renowned companies are planning to shift work orders from China to other Asian countries, including Bangladesh, according to a new survey. Hong Kong-based QIMA, a leading provider of supply chain compliance solutions and which partners with brands, retailers and importers to secure, manage and optimise their global supply network, surveyed the executives of more than 200 globally renowned companies between February and early March. Half of the survey respondents are considering shifting supplier sourcing away from China to new countries or r


By Daily Star
March 12, 2020