Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Critics sceptical of NGO's optimistic findings

Critics sceptical of NGO's optimistic findings

Sam Rainsy and Hun Sen shake hands in the stairs of the National Assembly in Phnom Penh in 2014 during less politically turbulent times.
Sam Rainsy and Hun Sen shake hands in the stairs of the National Assembly in Phnom Penh in 2014 during less politically turbulent times. Heng Chivoan

Critics sceptical of NGO's optimistic findings

Cambodians were optimistic about the economic and political future of the Kingdom, according to a national survey on citizens' perceptions released on Wednesday by the Asia Foundation, although observers yesterday questioned whether that optimism remains in light of the government’s recent crackdown on the opposition.

The findings in Cambodia: A Survey of Livelihood Strategies and Expectations for the Future, from research conducted between July and September 2015, show that a majority (56.2 per cent) of Cambodians feel the country is “generally headed in the right direction”, a substantial improvement over 2014.

Government dissatisfaction, according to the survey, stems mostly from nationalistic sentiments and economic policy, with the three most displeasing areas being “relations with Vietnam (38.9%), management of natural resources (34.8%), and the fight against corruption (25.6%)”.

What’s more, 55 per cent of respondents predicted that the next elections would be free and fair and yield policies of reform.

However, as noted in the Asia Foundation’s statement announcing the release of the study, this optimism was measured during “a period of political collaboration”.

That brief window of detente between the ruling Cambodian People’s Party and opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party – often referred to as the “culture of dialogue” – came before the beating of two opposition lawmakers, the ouster of deputy CNRP leader Kem Sokha as National Assembly vice president and the charges issued against CNRP head Sam Rainsy, which are widely believed to be politically motivated.

Those events, according to political analyst Ou Virak, “put the final nail in the coffin of the culture of dialogue”, and “would make the numbers a lot different”.

Optimism over future elections, he noted, may have stemmed from “the opposition raising expectations” of National Election Commission reform, which did not materialise. “It’s the same secretary-general,” he added.

However, Phay Siphan, a government spokesman, held that the optimism evidenced in the survey had nothing to do with cooperation between parties, and everything to do with the strong leadership of Prime Minister Hun Sen.

“In this period, Cambodians need a strong man like him,” he said, adding that political pluralism is not necessarily part of the culture, pointing to the failure of Prince Norodom Ranariddh’s government in 1993 – a failure that took place after several days of bloody factional fighting saw Hun Sen installed as the sole head of government by military forces loyal to him.

Siphan went on to criticise the opposition for “pointing fingers” rather than participating in policy-making. “The CNRP uses the same strategy of rebellion and of not participating as the Khmer Rouge in the 1960s and ’70s,” he said.

MOST VIEWED

  • Prince Norodom Ranariddh passes away at 77

    Prince Norodom Ranariddh, the second son of the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk and former First Prime Minister of Cambodia, has passed away in France at the age of 77. “Samdech Krom Preah Norodom Ranariddh has passed away this morning in France just after 9am Paris-time,”

  • General’s gun smuggling ring busted

    The Military Police sent six military officers to court on November 22 to face prosecution for possession of 105 illegal rifles and arms smuggling, while investigators say they are still hunting down additional accomplices. Sao Sokha, deputy commander of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces and commander of

  • Cambodia, Thailand to discuss border reopening

    Cambodian authorities from provinces along the Cambodia-Thailand border will meet with Thai counterparts to discuss reopening border checkpoints to facilitate travel, transfer of products and cross-border trade between the two countries. Banteay Meanchey provincial deputy governor Ly Sary said on November 22 that the provincial administration

  • More Cambodians studying in US

    The number of Cambodian students studying at US colleges and universities in 2020-21 increased by 14.3 per cent over the previous year despite the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a recent US government report. The 2021 Open Doors report on International Educational Exchange showed that 848 Cambodian students studied

  • Rise in planned flights lifts travel hopes

    Six airlines have applied to resume flights in December, while two others have put in for additional flights and routes, according to State Secretariat of Civil Aviation (SSCA) head Mao Havannall on November 29. These account for 43 new weekly domestic and international flights in December, up 16

  • Hun Sen: Manet to be candidate for prime minister

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has reaffirmed that his oldest son Hun Manet will be his successor as Prime Minister if he is elected. Speaking during the inauguration of a new sewage treatment facility in Preah Sihanouk province on December 2, Hun Sen said Manet will be