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The funeral procession of slain Cambodian government critic Kem Ley, Kandal, west of Phnom Penh, July 24, 2016 (AP photo by Heng Sinith).

Cambodia’s Democratic Transition Has Collapsed, With Dangerous Consequences

Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2016

As Cambodia prepares for national elections in two years, its politics have veered dangerously out of control. Even though young Cambodians are demanding political alternatives and accessing more information outside of state media, the country’s transition toward two-party politics has collapsed. The government’s brutal tactics of the 1990s and early 2000s, when political activists were routinely murdered and opposition parties nearly put out of business, have returned. Young Cambodians may be left with no outlet for their grievances, creating a potentially explosive situation, especially given the promise of reform and dialogue just a few years ago.

In 2013, the opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP), an alliance of opposition groups, came together in time for general elections and nearly defeated the Cambodian People’s Party, whose dominance stretches back to the end of the Khmer Rouge era in 1979. Cambodia seemed poised for a transition to a freer, more democratic system. What went wrong? ...

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