Inside Story

Flagging change in Cambodia

How will the growing protests over alleged vote rigging impact the country’s political landscape?

It began with a political deadlock after Cambodia’s general election in July, which the opposition says was rigged. The resulting protests turned violent on Sunday.

I don't think there is any doubt about the fact that the elections have been compromised in some way or the other and if there hasn't been any compromise then Hun Sen should not have any problems launching an independent probe.

by Sourav Roy, a political analyst and columnist

Police forces dispersed thousands who were challenging the election won by Prime Minister Hun Sen who has been in power for almost 30 years.

Police claimed they only uses tear gas, batons and smoke grenades, but one man was killed after being shot in the protests.

Amid the escalation, Cambodia’s prime minister met the opposition leader, Sam Rainsy on Monday. They had already been brought face-to-face by Cambodia’s king, who urged both men to end the stalemate.

But the protests have continued and thousands of people gathered in Freedom Park in Phnom Penh for a second day, claiming thousands of voters were kept out of the electoral process.

Hun Sen’s ruling Cambodia’s People’s Party is credited with helping to achieve economic growth in the country. But he is increasingly criticised for being an authoritarian figure. And opposition figures are calling for an investigation into July’s election results.

Yim Sovann, the Cambodia National Rescue Party spokesman said: “The Cambodia National Rescue Party wants the formation of the independent committee, which needs to be set up to find justice for voters.”

But the ruling Cambodian People’s Party said it would not agree to forming such a committee.

So, what does all this turmoil mean for this kingdom? Why did the protests turn violent? And was the election fixed to keep Hun Sen in power?

Inside Story, with presenter Kamahl Santamaria, discusses with guests: Sourav Roy, an Asian affairs political analyst and columnist for the Huffington Post; Chheang Vannarith, a senior fellow at the Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace; and Rupert Abbott, an Asia researcher for Amnesty International.

“I think the reason this protest came about was because the authorities’ real paranoia – … putting roadblocks all over the city – really wasn’t required; the opposition demonstration was very much peaceful and so these protests occured at these flashpoints where there was these roadblocks.”

Rupert Abbott, a researcher for Amnesty International