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Cambodia

Yearbook 2016

Cambodia. The political tension in Cambodia rose during the year when the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) began to tighten its muscles ahead of the 2017 local elections and the parliamentary elections the following year. The ruling party continued to have frosty relations with the opposition party Cambodia's National Rescue Party (CNRP) and individual organizations.

2016 Cambodia

According to countryaah, Prime Minister Hun Sen reformed the government in April. Foreign Minister Hor Namhong, an 80-year veteran who has served since 1998, left. New ministers were appointed for agriculture, finance, trade, education and the environment. The rejuvenation was intended to help the ruling party reach out to younger voters. Hun Sen continued to be active on social media, which has become increasingly important.

Several CNRP members were involved in legal proceedings, including leader Sam Rainsy, who has been in exile since November 2015. He was sentenced in December to five years in prison for publishing false information about land violations to Vietnam on his Facebook page. Other party members have also been sentenced to prison for this. Rainsy has previously been sentenced to two years in prison and fined for defamation of CPP peaks. In October, the government announced that Rainsy had an entry ban.

In September, Rainsy's deputy Kem Sokha was sentenced to five months in prison for court-martial. He had refused to appear for questioning alleged involvement in a sex scandal, which critics claimed was fictitious. Sokha lost his parliamentary immunity in May. This and other cases led to the CNRP boycotting parliamentary work. Only at the budget debate in November did the party return, but could not stop the defense budget by 23%.

The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) was one of several international organizations that criticized the government's harassment of the opposition.

The murder of Kem Ley, a government-critical activist, in the capital Phnom Penh July 10 shocked many. The police arrested a suspect who said it was a monetary debt. Others thought that a political motive was more likely when Ley discussed a report from London-based Global Witness a few days before the murder, which questioned how the relatives of Hun Sen enriched themselves. Tens of thousands of people followed Ley's funeral train.

The World Bank upgraded the country to the lower middle income category, the same as Vietnam. Cambodia's GDP was projected to grow by 7% in 2016-17. A new law regulating the activities of trade unions was criticized for not complying with international conventions on strike law. Many of the country's around 3,400 unions are active in the tech industry, which employs about 700,000 people. There, the government decided to raise minimum wages by 9% from 2017. Neither the tech industry association nor the trade unions were satisfied.

The disputed refugee program with Australia did not lift. Three Iranian citizens chose to return to Iran during the year. They belonged to a handful of refugees transferred in 2015 from a criticized camp on the Pacific island of Nauru.

In November, Cambodia's UN-backed tribunal handed down sentences for life imprisonment for two of the leaders under the Red Khmer terrorist regime 1975-79. Khieu Sampan, the 85-year-old former president, and former chief ideologist Nuon Chea, 90, known as "brother number two," were convicted of crimes against humanity.

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