As the year draws to a close, we look back at some of the significant milestones Cambodia achieved in 2023. From sporting glory, to a peaceful transfer of power, to a big step on the global stage, The Post has selected the most newsworthy moments of the year

1-Cambodia hosting 32nd SEA Games and 12th ASEAN Para Games

Following a 64-year wait, Cambodia hosted the 32nd Southeast Asian (SEA) Games from May 5 to 17, and the 12th ASEAN Para Games from June 3 to 9.

Both events – two of the region’s largest – were centred around the Moradok Techo National Stadium in Phnom Penh, and took place under the presidency of former Prime Minister Hun Sen and his wife Bun Rany, under the theme “Sports Live in Peace”.

The many competitions were entered by athletes from the 10 ASEAN member countries, as well as observer member nation Timor-Leste. Tickets for all events were provided to the public free of charge, while the government covered the costs of meals and accommodation for each of the visiting athletes and their sporting delegations.

The world-class opening and closing ceremonies featured an unprecedented number of spectacular performances, detailing the birth of Cambodia and the progress of the Angkorian era, as well as details of the culture and civilisation of the Kingdom’s rich and ancient culture.

The games also featured the first appearance of Cambodian martial arts Kun Lbokator and Kun Khmer as medal events.

The incredible performances also charted the decline of Cambodia into chaos, and the miraculous restoration which began on January 7, 1979, when the country was liberated from the Khmer Rouge genocidal regime.

Team Cambodia performed better than even the most fervent fans had dared to dream, with the Kingdom’s athletes collecting 282 medals at the 32nd SEA Games. Their 81 gold, 74 silver and 127 bronze placed them third on the medal table, comfortably defeating several much larger regional powers.

Bou Samnang captured the hearts of millions, for her gutsy showing in the 5,000m at the 32nd SEA Games. SPMHeng Chivoan

During the equally competitive ASEAN Para Games, Cambodia ranked eighth, with a total of 70 medals, including nine gold, 18 silver and 43 bronze.

The smooth running of the events – which were held in specialised facilities from Siem Reap to the beaches of Kep province – drew the attention of each of the attending nations, with many lauding the organisation of the games as a perfect example of how to stage such events.

The success of the games brought prestige to Cambodia, with Hun Sen describing them as a “priceless historical achievement” which future generations will surely remember.

2-The 7th National Assembly Election

Cambodia held the general election on July 23, in line with the Constitution. This year saw 18 political parties on the ballot, although two parties were unable to register with the National Election Committee (NEC), with failure to meet the requirements of the electoral laws cited for the disqualification.

Each party campaigned hard during the designated three-week campaign period, and despite calls from former opposition politicians to not take part or to spoil the ballots, more than 84 per cent of eligible voters carried out their democratic duty.

The voting and vote counting took place under the watchful eyes of tens of thousands of local and international observers, according to the NEC.

When the election results were announced by the NEC, only two parties had claimed seats in the National Assembly.

The ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), with more than 82 per cent of the vote, claimed 120 of the total 125 seats, with the remaining five going to the royalist FUNCINPEC Party led by Prince Norodom Chakravuth, the son of the late Prince Norodom Ranariddh.

Many countries sent congratulatory messages to the CPP following its victory, while also sharing praise for the “free, fair and just” election process. Many of them noted the large number of observers who worked to ensure the legitimacy of the election.

Each of the parties that contested the election but failed to win any seats also announced their unconditional acceptance of the results, despite a small number of Western countries expressing their disappointment with the electoral process.

3-Hun Manet appointed as new Prime Minister

Following a request based on new Article 119 of the Constitution from Hun Sen, president of the CPP, which won a majority in the election, King Norodom Sihamoni issued a Royal Decree on August 7 appointing Hun Manet as prime minister and assigning him to form the seventh-mandate government in the lead-up to a vote of confidence at the National Assembly.

One day later, Prime Minister Hun Manet was awarded the highest honour of the Royal Academy of Cambodia, when the King bequeathed him with Kittitesaphibalbandit, a title bestowed on a “leader with the highest level of knowledge and intelligence”. 

On September 2, Manet was conferred the royal title “Samdech Moha Bovorthipadi Hun Manet”. On the same day, National Assembly president Khuon Sudary – the first woman to assume the presidency – was also honoured with the royal title “Samdech Moha Rathsapheathika Thipadei”.

4-Inaugural session of National Assembly’s 7th legislative mandate 

The National Assembly of the 7th mandate sat for its first session on August 21, under the presidency of King Norodom Sihamoni, and was attended by all 125 elected representatives from the CPP and FUNCINPEC.

National Assembly president Khuon Sudary became the first woman to hold the post.

Diplomats from 30 countries, including the US, UK, Australia, France and Japan, some of whom had previously criticised the Cambodian election, were also present as guests of honour.

The lawmakers declared their readiness to work with the new government, as well as to adhere to diplomatic, political and legal values.

5-Inauguration of 7th-mandate government 

On August 22, the National Assembly voted unanimously in favour of Manet as prime minister. On the same day, the King issued a Royal Decree appointing the new government, which consists of 10 deputy prime ministers, along with more than 40 ministers. 

Manet presented the CPP’s political programme – which had been broadly shared with the public during the election campaign period – to the National Assembly. The programme focuses on six priority areas and has been implemented since the introduction of the government’s Pentagonal Strategy-Phase I on August 24.

The first priority is the expansion of healthcare towards the provision of universal coverage to all Cambodians, with the second being the free provision of vocational training to more than 1.5 million young people from vulnerable and impoverished families.

The third is the establishment of social assistance programmes for vulnerable families in times of economic crisis or emergency. The fourth centres on strategies which will allow members of the informal economy to play a larger role in the national development, while also benefitting from formal social protection systems.

The fifth is the establishment of coordination mechanisms and financing programmes aimed at boosting production and access to markets for the agricultural sector, while also balancing the prices of key crops at a reasonable level.

Finally, the sixth policy calls for the deployment of specialised agricultural officials to targeted communes across the Kingdom, as well as the establishment of rural farmers’ associations. Examinations to select the first batch of specialised officials were successfully held on December 17.

6-Manet addresses UN General Assembly

After successfully leading the Kingdom’s delegation to the 43rd ASEAN Summit and related meetings from September 4 to 7 in Indonesia and an official visit to China in mid-September, Manet completed a whirlwind period of diplomatic activity when he led the Cambodian delegation to the 78th session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA), held at the UN Headquarters in the US’ New York City from September 21 to 25.

As he addressed the UNGA 78, Manet touched on a number of key issues, including the global context, Cambodia’s socio-economic progress, and the Kingdom’s commitment to the revolutionary activities of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

On that occasion, the prime minister also announced that as stated in its Constitution, Cambodia would not allow foreign military bases on its territory, and neither would it allow any country or entity to use Cambodian territory to attack or threaten other nations.

Manet also affirmed that Cambodia intends to make further efforts to strengthen and expand its “excellent” cooperation with nations around the world through bilateral, regional and international frameworks to contribute to common peace, security, stability, sustainable development and prosperity. 

He reiterated that Cambodia will continue to walk the path of independence and neutrality, based on the rule of law, mutual respect, equality and adherence to the principles of the UN Charter to promote national interests, strengthen existing friendships and more.

Apart from addressing the general assembly, Manet also met with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, US Deputy Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, Indian foreign minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, Austalian foreign minister Penny Wong, as well as other heads of state and private sector leaders. He also met with a group of around 2,000 members of the Cambodian diaspora living in the US.

Manet and his delegation returned to the Kingdom on September 25.