Cambodia's 2018 Election: Free and Fair, or Fatally Flawed?-
An FCCT panel discussion

7pm, Wednesday July 11, 2018
Members: free, Non-members 450 Baht, Thai journalists and Students with valid ID: 150 Baht
Cambodians will vote in national elections on July 29 that offer few alternatives to Prime Minister Hun Sen and the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP), which has governed the country since 1979.

The main opposition party, the Cambodia National Rescue Party has been dissolved, eliminating any real challenge to the long-ruling CPP, and many of its members have been driven into hiding or exile abroad.

At the same time Hun Sen's regime has moved against non-governmental organizations and the press, both of which he has accused of undermining his power. The once-active independent local media have been all but silenced, particularly following the closure in late 2017 of The Cambodia Daily newspaper after nearly 25 years and a sweeping crackdown on Radio Free Asia and its journalists.

This was not the international community's vision for Cambodia, a country of 16 million people, as it struggled to escape a violent and traumatic recent past. From 1992 to 1993, the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia was among the costliest and most ambitious operations in the UN's history. It aimed to end the civil war that followed in the wake of US bombing during the Vietnam War and the Khmer Rouge genocide - which, combined, led to the deaths of well over two million Cambodians.

Hun Sen has led the country through economic recovery as well as growing political authoritarianism, and, in recent years, the steady growth of Chinese influence and foreign investment. In regional terms, Cambodia is now seen as China's "cheerleader" within an increasingly disparate Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

While there is virtually no doubt about the likely winner of the July 29 poll, the election raises disturbing questions about the country's future - and its role in a volatile and politically fragmented region.


Julia Wallace is an award-winning Phnom Penh-based journalist who has contributed to publications including the New York Times, The Atlantic, Al Jazeera, and The Nation. She also helps manage Voice of America's Cambodia coverage and is a former executive editor of The Cambodia Daily.

Thitinan Pongsudhirak is Director of the Institute for Security and International Studies at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok and a leading commentator on Southeast Asia affairs. One of his current research projects is on the domestic determinants of Thai-Cambodian relations.

Sebastian Strangio is a commentator, journalist and author of "Hun Sen's Cambodia," one of the most widely read books on contemporary Cambodian politics. He is now a freelance correspondent covering Southeast Asia and a contributor to publications including the Nikkei Asian Review, Foreign Policy and The New York Times. He is currently working on a book about China's rising power in Southeast Asia.

Kingsley Abbott is a Bangkok-based Senior Legal Adviser with the International Commission of Jurists. He has lived and worked in Southeast Asia for a decade, including more than four years in Cambodia at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal. He has also worked as an international criminal lawyer in the Hague and a barrister in New Zealand.

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