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Top US think tank sees trouble ahead

Top US think tank sees trouble ahead

A TOP American think tank has warned that Cambodia will grow dangerously unstable in coming years, should it fail to overhaul its democratic institutions.

Pointing to trends of “politically related violence, corruption, and nepotism”, in the run-up to the July 28 elections, researchers at the Center for Strategic and International Studies conclude that “Cambodia is not moving forward with its Asean partners and instead is home to a political instability that should concern its neighbors and Asean colleagues, including the US.”

The public policy research institute is widely considered one of the most expert focusing on Southeast Asia. In June of last year, Foreign Minister Hor Namhong was a keynote speaker at a panel hosted by the think tank, which also featured Ministry of Foreign Affairs secretaries of state Ouch Borith and Kao Kim Hourn.

In the policy brief published on Thursday, researchers commend Cambodia’s strong economic growth and increased foreign investment but note that poor distribution of that wealth has led to growing unrest.

“Violent landgrabs, extrajudicial killings, crackdowns on activists, and corruption have continued alongside Cambodia’s impressive economic performance. Regional history has shown this is a recipe for political instability,” they write.

“Hun Sen is safe for now, but his sons would be wise to pay close attention to the trajectory of Southeast Asian politics. Strong-arming, corruption, intimidation, and a refusal to play by the rules will not secure votes forever, likely not even for long,” the paper warns.

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan brushed aside the conclusions, calling the message “really biased”.

“It’s a part of the campaign against the ruling party as well as against government achievements. If you compare to the rest of the region, Cambodia is the most stable,” he said.

“I appreciate what they raised,” he continued, “but the government from day to day makes it better.”

Siphan also noted that, given the country’s bloody past, few would prize unrest above stability.

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