Hun Sen Is Tightening His Grip Ahead of Cambodia’s Elections

Hun Sen Is Tightening His Grip Ahead of Cambodia’s Elections
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen waves to party members upon his arrival at the Cambodian People’s Party headquarters in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, June 28, 2022 (AP photo by Heng Sinith).

Former Cambodian opposition leader Kem Sokha was convicted of treason in early March. Kem Sokha, who was the co-president of Cambodia’s main opposition party before its dissolution in 2017, was sentenced to 27 years in prison. His right to vote and to stand for election were permanently revoked.

The conviction, which Kem Sokha has already appealed, concludes the first chapter of a protracted trial that has done little to assuage longstanding concerns about the politicization of Cambodia’s judicial system. It also prevents the only remaining opposition figure with nationwide name-recognition from challenging long-serving Prime Minister Hun Sen and his ruling Cambodian People’s Party, or CPP, in national elections scheduled for July. Regardless of the outcome of Kem Sokha’s appeal, his legal persecution has laid bare Hun Sen’s desire to remove any and all threats to his and his party’s grip on power.

Kem Sokha was first arrested at his home in the early hours of Sept. 3, 2017, a development described on the front page of the soon-to-be-shuttered Cambodia Daily as Cambodia’s “Descent Into Outright Dictatorship.” The move came just months after his Cambodian National Rescue Party, or CNRP, had made unprecedented gains in local elections despite the legally enforced resignation of co-president, Sam Rainsy, and less than a year before Kem Sokha was due to lead the party in the 2018 national election.

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article by submitting your email address below. You'll also get access to three articles of your choice each month and our free newsletter:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having a personal curator and expert analyst of global affairs news. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of tens of thousands of articles.
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday.
  • Regular in-depth articles with deep dives into important issues and countries.
  • The Daily Review email, with our take on the day’s most important news, the latest WPR analysis, what’s on our radar, and more.
  • The Weekly Review email, with quick summaries of the week’s most important coverage, and what’s to come.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.

More World Politics Review