Malaysia and Cambodia widen the democracy-dictatorship divide – Nikkei Asian Review

JAKARTA — In contrast to Malaysia’s electoral earthquake in May, which resulted in the first opposition win since independence, last Sunday’s elections in Cambodia produced a predictable landslide victory for Prime Minister Hun Sen, in power since 1985. His Cambodian People’s Party claims to have won all 125 seats available, prompting Mu Sochea, an exiled opposition leader, to tell media in Jakarta that election day “marked the death of democracy in Cambodia.” The view from Malaysia: “Millions of Cambodians were denied a genuine choice, as the CPP’s victory was guaranteed even before the first ballot was cast,” said Charles Santiago, a member of the Democratic Action Party, which is now part of the new Mahathir Mohamad-led governing coalition, in a statement released on Monday.

Cambodian opposition dissolved as Hun Sen consolidates control – Nikkei Asian Review

MANILA — Cambodia’s Supreme Court has ordered the break-up of the main opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party over allegations that it aimed to topple the government. The ruling was widely expected, including by the CNRP, which did not send lawyers to contest the case. The court is headed by a judge who is a member of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party. The decision means that Prime Minister Hun Sen, in office since 1985, will face little opposition in national elections scheduled for July 2018.  The CNRP came close to matching CPP in national elections in 2013, winning 44.46% of the popular vote. There was a similar outcome in local elections earlier this year. 

Promises and pitfalls in Cambodia’s online business world – Nikkei Asian Review

PHNOM PENH — As he described his search for funding for Khmerload, a digital media company touted as Cambodia’s version of BuzzFeed, chief executive Vichet In recounted an arduous struggle. “We sent an email to 10 [venture capitalists] — no reply. We talked to a few investors — there was no interest. They couldn’t believe we could do an expansion to another country.” Finally, U.S.-based investor 500 Startups, which describes itself as “a global venture capital seed fund,” came up with $200,000, cash that could help the company expand beyond Cambodia and Myanmar, where Myanmarload was launched in 2016. The websites churn out the kind of entertainment and celebrity gossip that was the foundation for the global success of U.S.-based BuzzFeed, a website that mixes entertainment, news and so-called viral content The 500 Startups deal, announced in March, was the first time a Silicon Valley venture capital fund had put its money into a Cambodian “startup,” a term for a newly-established business that nowadays usually refers to a tech, online or smartphone-related enterprise.

Cambodian local elections point to a tight parliamentary race – Nikkei Asian Review

PHNOM PENH — Preliminary results in Cambodia’s June 4 local, or commune, elections indicate a narrow win for Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party. The CPP took 51% of the popular vote, giving it control of around 1,100 of the country’s 1,646 communes. But nearly half of all voters opted for the opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party, suggesting a close fight in next year’s parliamentary elections. The local elections were a dry run for the 2018 poll. Two days before the vote, Hun Sen led a huge CPP rally in Phnom Penh — a rare appearance from a leader previously so confident that he rarely campaigned. The CNRP emulated the CPP later the same day. Tens of thousands of both parties’ supporters rode around the capital in festive convoys of trucks and motorbikes around 5km long.

Local elections have Cambodians thinking a year ahead – RTÉ World Report

Last Sunday Cambodia’s held local elections saw a narrow win for the ruling Cambodian People’s Party led by Prime Minister Hun Sen. But while the CPP won the popular vote, the opposition saw its share of council seats increase ten-fold from the last local elections held in 2012. The campaign had all the colour and tension of a national election, which Cambodia will stage in a year’s time, with huge final rallies by the CPP and the opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party on the Friday before the vote.

High turnout in Cambodian local elections as opposition poised to gain – Nikkei Asian Review

PHNOM PENH — As Cambodia’s 16 million people awaited official results from Sunday’s local elections, early indications suggested that Cambodian National Rescue Party, the main opposition group, had made significant gains at the ruling Cambodian People’s Party’s expense. As the National Election Committee read out results on local TV, the CNRP estimated that it had won 46% of the popular vote to the CPP’s 51%. Fresh News, a local outlet sympathetic toward the CPP, said that preliminary results showed the CPP winning in 1,163 communes across the country, down from 1,592 five years earlier, with the CNRP winning 482. The elections are widely seen as a test run ahead of next year’s national parliamentary polls, which will decide who forms the next government. At stake are 11,572 local council seats in Cambodia’s 1,646 communes or municipalities. The National Election Committee, an official body, was scheduled to being announcing preliminary results first at 5pm local time, then 7pm, before finally commencing the results announcement at 8:30pm. The delay was blamed on an internet outage.

Phnom Penh sees huge final campaign rallies ahead of local elections – Nikkei Asian Review

PHNOM PENH — Hundreds of thousands of Cambodians braved scorching sun in the capital on Friday to cheer Prime Minister Hun Sen and opposition leader Kem Sokha on the final day of campaigning ahead of Sunday (June 4) when strongly contested commune, or sangkat elections, are being held.

Debt and corruption muddy US-Cambodia relations

SINGAPORE — In contrast to the anguish and astonishment expressed in many national capitals, Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen welcomed Donald Trump’s election as U.S. president in November. While the warm response augured well for Phnom Penh’s often troubled relations with Washington, prospects for improved bilateral ties have since faded. In January, the month of Trump’s inauguration, Cambodia pulled out of the “Angkor Sentinel” joint military exercises with the U.S. In early April Phnom Penh followed up that snub to Washington by halting a nine-year-old humanitarian program run by the U.S. military that involved building schools and maternity facilities in rural areas of Cambodia. These affronts were punctuated by testy exchanges between the U.S. embassy in Phnom Penh and the Cambodian government, notably over a political parties law passed in February that will make it easier for the Cambodian courts to suspend or even dissolve opposition parties. “Any government action to ban or restrict parties under the new amendments would constitute a significant setback for Cambodia’s political development, and would seriously call into question the legitimacy of the upcoming elections,” the embassy said, referring to local elections scheduled for June and a national poll due in 2018. The law has been widely criticized in Cambodia, too. Chak Sopheap, executive director of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, described it as “an affront to the principles of liberal democracy, [which] effectively gives the ruling party a delete button which can be arbitrarily applied to their political opponents at any time.”

Phnom Penh building boom prompts pride and puzzlement – Nikkei Asian Review

PHNOM PENH — The plush office building on Phnom Penh’s riverside was meant to showcase one of the dozens of new high-rise apartments being built all over the Cambodian capital. But the place was empty, save for an elaborate model of The Bay, a proposed $500 million multipurpose real estate project being developed by Singapore’s TEHO International Inc. Ltd. “Sorry mister, we are closed, the project is under review,” said the sole staff member inside the building, adding that the office will be rented to new tenants soon. TEHO declined to answer questions about the project’s future, but on Aug. 26 said that while the hotel planned for the complex would go ahead, the residential part was being put on hold due to “a heightened risk of oversupply.” In one of Asia’s most remarkable building booms, dozens of new multistory residences are under construction — towering over what was historically a low-rise city and standing as symbols of the country’s long economic expansion.