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East Asia Forum
Cambodia is drifting towards autocracy with a clear trend. An unprecedented crackdown on independent media, civil society and the country’s major opposition party, the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), hardly suggest otherwise.
China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) continues to draw criticism and disapproval.
Economic growth in Cambodia remained robust in 2018 at a projected rate of 6.9 per cent, compared with 6.8 per cent in 2017.
Amid shifting global power dynamics and intense pressure from the West, Cambodia’s foreign policy strategy in the coming years will aim to diversify its external relations, with a focus on South and East Asian countries.
In March 2018, the Cambodian government announced its plan to be ready to transform into a digital economy by 2023.
The perception that Hun Sen is establishing a family dynasty in Cambodia has been reinforced with the promotion of his eldest son Hun Manet to the second highest rank in the nation’s military earlier this month.
This year marks the 60th anniversary of Cambodia–China diplomatic ties, and the relationship between the two countries has never been closer.
In June 2018, a leaked environmental impact assessment report on the proposed Sambor Hydropower Dam project in Cambodia revealed that constructing a dam at the proposed site could ‘literally kill the [Mekong] River’.
In January 2018, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang visited Cambodia and oversaw the signing of 19 new development deals.
Cambodia’s fast growth rate over the past few decades has contributed to a rise in income levels and a drastic reduction in poverty in the country.
Cambodia’s upcoming general election on 29 July looks set to be its most controversial since its first national election in 1993. In late 2017, the main opposition party, the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), was dissolved and 118 of its senior members were banned from politics based on what the ruling government deemed to be threats to peace and stability.
In March 2018, Cambodia and Thailand announced plans for several joint initiatives relating to trans-border movements, including a deal on exchanging fugitives, including exiled political figures.
Last June’s commune elections in Cambodia were expected to set the stage for the all-important national elections in 2018. Instead, 2017 marked a watershed not in terms of the electoral choice of Cambodians, but in terms of the November decision by the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) to disregard it.
After it graduated from Least Developed Country status in July 2016, Cambodia’s economy has remained healthy with a GDP growth rate of 6.9 per cent in 2017. This was driven by the recovering tourism sector, the ongoing construction boom and the gradual emergence of non-textile exports.