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.
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
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.