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Background Brief Cambodia: Opposition Takes to the Streets Carlyle A. Thayer September 14, 2013

[client name deleted] We are preparing a report about the post-election demonstration by the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) on Sunday (14 September]and seek your analytic input. The CNRP will forge ahead with their plans to hold a three-day protest which will begin on Sunday, a so called "camp in" to demand investigation of election irregularities in the July 28 national election. Authorities say they can't do that for three days, they can't stay at the Freedom Park overnight and they can't march outside of the park. In your opinion, what is expected from the weekend rally? Where is all this going? Hun Sen is going to push through the formation of a new government and will that be in line with the Constitution? Is there much momentum behind the opposition's protests? ANSWER: A massive crowd will attend the demonstration in Freedom Park reflecting recent large gatherings. The organisers have been at pains to keep it peaceful. But no matter how carefully things are planned there is the risk of violence. Either the security forces could lose control due to lack of experience or effective command and control, or several demonstrators might take to throwing objects at the police. Both sides are playing a high risk game of brinkmanship. Sam Rainsy and his supporters have to maintain “three days of rage” against what they see as a blatantly unfair election. The government appears to be playing a petty game using legal technicalities to curtail massive anti-government demonstrations. Hun Sen would be over playing his hand to send in the security forces to clear Freedom Square. There could well be isolated incidents of police harassment against stragglers and small groups. Both sides are politically posturing before the end of the month when the National Assembly is scheduled to meet. It is difficult seeing a sustained campaign of mass protests against the government lasting for any length of time. The longer they continue the more they will run out of steam. But any violence could quickly change the situation. The international community would likely come down hard on Hun Sen if the security forces use

2 violence and there is loss of life. By the same token, the international community is likely to urge Sam Rainsy to exercise restraint. The bottom line for the international community is that no matter how flawed the national elections were there is no longer any legal recourse in Cambodia. Both the National Election Committee and the Constitutional Council have made their decisions. If Hun Sen agreed to an outside investigation at this stage that would be tantamount to conceding that the elections were rigged. Time, it appears, is on the side of Hun Sen in this latest round of confrontation. The CNRP will have to reconcile themselves to the fact that despite their unprecedented showing in the national elections they failed to gain government. They also will have to reconcile themselves to the fact that that they are the opposition party for the next five years.

Suggested citation: Carlyle A. Thayer, “Cambodia: Opposition Takes to the Streets,” Thayer Consultancy Background Brief, September 14, 2013. All background briefs are posted on Scribd.com (search for Thayer). To remove yourself from the mailing list type UNSUBSCRIBE in the Subject heading and hit the Reply key. Thayer Consultancy provides political analysis of current regional security issues and other research support to selected clients. Thayer Consultancy was officially registered as a small business in Australia in 2002.

Thayer Consultancy
ABN # 65 648 097 123

Background Brief Cambodia: An ‘Arab Spring’ in Phnom Penh? Carlyle A. Thayer September 16, 2013

[client name deleted] The Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) have agreed to minor concessions on some vague electoral reform at an as yet unspecified point...but otherwise it appears things are much as they were. We request your assessment of the following: Now we've had the first bloodshed..Is there a chance this may spiral into a wider 'Cambodian spring' in terms of an unprecedented rejection of CPP rule? Or is this just a political squabble that Hun Sen will survive unscathed? ANSWER: The fatality, according to reports reaching me, took place at a police roadblock and was not directly connected to Freedom Park. The police reportedly used tear gas and rubber bullets when a crowd of commuters and protestors were heading home. This appears an isolated incident. My greater concern is that the relatively small crown at Freedom Park might tempt the security forces to intervene to drive them out and/or arrest a few in a show of force. Sam Rainsy is likely to tread lightly in order not to provoke the security forces or jeopardize the political talks between CCP and CNRP. The role of King Sihamoni is a circuit breaker that could save face on both sides. Sam Rainsy might be enticed into attending the opening of the National Assembly in return for some minor concessions into looking at electoral reform. Hun Sen's position appears safe at the moment but he cannot let the security forces lose control.

Suggested citation: Carlyle A. Thayer, “Cambodia: An ‘Arab Spring’ in Phnom Penh?,” Thayer Consultancy Background Brief, September 16, 2013. All background briefs are posted on Scribd.com (search for Thayer). To remove yourself from the mailing list type UNSUBSCRIBE in the Subject heading and hit the Reply key. Thayer Consultancy provides political analysis of current regional security issues and other research support to selected clients. Thayer Consultancy was officially registered as a small business in Australia in 2002.

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Thayer Consultancy
ABN # 65 648 097 123

Background Brief Cambodia: Sam Rainsy as Don Quixote Carlyle A. Thayer September 17, 2013

[client name deleted] We observed Freedom Park this afternoon, watching Kem Sokha and Sam Rainsy tell the much-diminished crowd that they had won a "moral victory" in their five-hour talks with Hun Sen today. The protest has, as you predicted, started to run out of steam, but the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) leaders vowed that they would continue to hold out for an independent inquiry into the election result, even though - as you also suggested - this is looking increasingly unlikely. Hun Sen has clearly taken some wind out of Sam Rainsy's sails today by striking a conciliatory tone while making no real concessions. We request your assessment of the following: What do you think Hun Sen's game plan is here, and how can Sam Rainsy waive the demand for an independent inquiry without alienating his supporters? We would also be interested in your assessment of the Hun Sen-Sam Rainsy meeting today. Many people were startled to see Hun Sen smiling so much. The situation in Phnom Penh is very calm today and this evening, with none of yesterday's tension. ANSWER: Sam Rainsy has a Don Quixote quality about him. He means well, his causes are justified, but he is impractical. He is best at issuing denunciations and confronting perceived evils. In the case at hand, Hun Sen's acceptance of an independent committee to review the past elections would completely undermine the National Election Committee and Constitutional Council. To draw a line in the sand and say the CNRP will not attend the opening of the National Assembly unless there is an independent committee will only play into Hun Sen's hands. He will proceed to run government on the basis he won the election and has the required majority in the National Assembly. Sam Rainsy should focus on practical political reform of the electoral system root and branch. This is not a goal that can be accomplished quickly. He should map out a campaign to address each of the shortcomings and deficiencies. The starting point should focus on the voter registration process and electoral role and then move on to establishing an independent National Election Committee.

2 Hun Sen's game plan is to wait things out, alternating between signs of conciliation with signs of strength. He will toy with the opposition to entice them into the National Assembly. It is my assessment that if Sam Rainsy remains outside the formal political process - and in the absence of serious violence by the security forces - it will become increasingly difficult to maintain mass support. Sam Rainsy needs to redirect the focus of his supporters from instant demands for an independent committee to a longer term campaign focused on reform of the electoral system. The danger for Sam Rainsy is that he will entrapped by Hun Sen in a political process that drags out. Sam Raisy should mobilise international support to pressure the Hun Sen government to undertake electoral reform and to offer to provide outside assistance in the form of experts and finance.

Suggested citation: Carlyle A. Thayer, “Cambodia: Sam Rainsy as Don Quixote,” Thayer Consultancy Background Brief, September 17, 2013. All background briefs are posted on Scribd.com (search for Thayer). To remove yourself from the mailing list type UNSUBSCRIBE in the Subject heading and hit the Reply key. Thayer Consultancy provides political analysis of current regional security issues and other research support to selected clients. Thayer Consultancy was officially registered as a small business in Australia in 2002.

Thayer Consultancy
ABN # 65 648 097 123

Background Brief Cambodia: The Future of the Opposition CNRP Carlyle A. Thayer September 20, 2013

[client name deleted] We are preparing a report on how likely it is that the unprecedented good election results of the opposition will lead to a real change in Cambodian politics. We request your assesment of the following: Q1, What should the opposition do (and avoid doing) to rise up to the occasion become a real parliamentary opposition? What kind of role should they adopt in term of leadership, coordination, proposing policies…? ANSWER: The opposition should accept the King’s invitation to attend the opening of the National Assembly. They should not boycott as the CPP may proceed to rule without them. They should press for a joint or bipartisan National Assembly committee to look at basic problems regarding electoral reform with priority on proper voter registration and a valid electoral role. The joint committee could then move on to address other issues one by one such as the appointment of a more independent National Election Committee. The opposition should back down from its all or nothing pledge to boycott the National Assembly unless an independent committee is formed. They need to demonstrate that they can be practical. The opposition can continue to stage demonstrations to demonstrate support for their electoral reform program. Q2. Even if the opposition behave the best they can, do you think Hun Sen will let them have any influence in the policy making process? Is he ready to give the opposition a voice after his poor results in the election or is he more likely to stick to his grip on power? Some people say he's likely to listen to avoid any kind of "Arab Spring" that would get rid of him, is that relevant? ANSWER: Hun Sen is open to giving the opposition some positions in the National Assembly but this will be mainly symbolic not real power. Hun Sen has already signaled some willingness to tinker around the edges of electoral reform. This gives hope that voter registration and the electoral role issues can be addresses. The opposition should seek donor support from the US, Japan, Australia and Europe to finance this reform.

2 The opposition can also set up an expert and eminent persons group to study political reform and make recommendations. This would keep up the pressure on Hun Sen. The object here is to address the main grievances arising from the last elections – ghost voters for example. Hun Sen will want to take the moral high ground and appear to be cooperating in the interest of national unity and reconciliation. But he will not let political reforms undermine the basis of his power. Five years is a long time and Hun Sen will face commune and provincial elections in mid-term. The CPP may be prepared to make some concessions; after all they must address the deficit in support from the younger generation. The danger of an ‘Arab Spring’ has receded. But a precedent had been set. Cambodian citizens can protest the actions of the government without over retribution or repression. If the security forces resort to repression and there is major loss of life, the youth masses could be aroused. Demonstrations would probably move from non-violent protests to actions against the security forces. But this is a remote possibility at the moment. Both the CPP and CNRP appear to have pulled back from the brink.

Suggested citation: Carlyle A. Thayer, “Cambodia: The Future of the Opposition CNRP,” Thayer Consultancy Background Brief, September 20, 2013. All background briefs are posted on Scribd.com (search for Thayer). To remove yourself from the mailing list type UNSUBSCRIBE in the Subject heading and hit the Reply key. Thayer Consultancy provides political analysis of current regional security issues and other research support to selected clients. Thayer Consultancy was officially registered as a small business in Australia in 2002.

Thayer Consultancy
ABN # 65 648 097 123

Background Brief Cambodia: One-Party Government Carlyle A. Thayer September 25, 2013

[client name deleted] We are preparing a report on the most recent developments in post-election Cambodian politics that has resulted a one-party government consisting only of Prime Minister Hun Sen and members of the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP). We request your assessment of the following: Q1- Do you think that western donors will continue to cooperate with a government that includes only the CPP? In other words, can the CPP last for 5 years without Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP)? ANSWER: The cautious reactions by the United States and Europe indicate that while they will continue to push for electoral reform, they will not sanction the Hun Sen government. Even after the so-called coup in 1997, the United States continued to provide humanitarian assistance via non-governmental groups and as a matter of practicality dealt with the Cambodian government when necessary. The CPP can definitely remain in power over the next five years with or without the CNRP. If the CNRP abnegates its role as an opposition party it will leave the CPP unopposed. This will be a terrible disappointment to the CNRP’s support base especially among the youth. Q2- To what extent do you think the backing of China has emboldened Prime Minister Hun Sen in his handling of domestic and foreign affairs? ANSWER: Hun Sen no doubt views China’s political support as reassuring. But the lack of strong reaction in the form of aid cuts or other sanctions by the international community has also reassured Hun Sen. Hun Sen is not really under fire for his handling of foreign affairs. The opposition may criticise him for relations with Vietnam, but Sam Rainsy had attempted to curry favour with China too. Hun Sen, however, is probably emboldened by his own assessment of the domestic political balance. His party’s poor electoral showing has not undercut the basis of the CCP regime – patronage networks built on corruption and close economic and commercial relations with Chinese enterprises and investors. Q3- Do you think fears that the CPP is drifting back toward a communist state are founded, and what are the repercussions of this perception?

2 ANSWER: The CPP is definitely not drifting back toward an orthodox communist state; the People’s Republic of Kampuchea and the State of Cam bodia were very mild versions of socialist regimes. The real concern should be over whether or not an embattled CPP regime will revert to its default position of authoritarian rule. This is of real concern because if the opposition mounts a strong challenge in terms of mass demonstrations or the opposition shows weakness the Hun Sen regime is liable to use repressive means justified on dubious legal grounds. Q4- Does the CNRP have anything to gain by joining a CPP-led government (given how the CPP has ruled the country over the past decade)? ANSWER: If the CNRP joins the CPP in government, individual members will benefit personally. There may be a chance to carry out some reform of the electoral system. Being in government will provide a modicum of protection against repression by the police and security services. But these benefits are likely to prove temporary. Power sharing will turn out to be an illusion. Sharing power with the CPP will disappoint and alienate the CNRP’s youth base. Q5- What are the risks for CNRP in staying out of the National Assembly altogether? ANSWER: If the CNRP stays out of power it risks sliding into political irrelevance. The CPP will continue to govern, a task made all the easier without a vocal opposition. The CNRP may lose its seats in the National Assembly as Hun Sen has threatened to do. The CNRP has nowhere to go except to assume its seats in the National Assembly. It cannot expect that its supporters will maintain their rage against corruption, land sale issues and electoral fraud indefinitely.

Suggested citation: Carlyle A. Thayer, “Cambodia: One-Party Government,” Thayer Consultancy Background Brief, September 25, 2013. All background briefs are posted on Scribd.com (search for Thayer). To remove yourself from the mailing list type UNSUBSCRIBE in the Subject heading and hit the Reply key. Thayer Consultancy provides political analysis of current regional security issues and other research support to selected clients. Thayer Consultancy was officially registered as a small business in Australia in 2002.

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