Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) claimed an overwhelming victory in the country’s national election on Sunday. The party said it had won 80 percent of the vote, expecting to take at least 100 of 125 seats in the National Assembly. With this result, the CPP has left other parties far behind and performed much better than in the previous general election. Mr Hun Sen will remain in power as prime minister.
Cambodia is a constitutional monarchy. The 65-year-old prime minister has been in power for 33 years, one of the world’s longest-serving leaders. When Cambodia’s Supreme Court last year dissolved the main opposition party – the Cambodia National Rescue Party, which won more than 40 percent of the votes in the last general election – the US and EU withdrew their support for this year’s Cambodian election, accusing the Hun Sen government of “abandoning any democratic pretenses”.
The West has also made an issue of the China-Cambodia relationship. It claimed Mr Hun Sen supported China’s South China Sea policy in exchange for Chinese assistance, and with China’s support for his “iron-fist” rule, the prime minister has shrugged off Western snubs.
However, the West has had to admit that Cambodia’s annual economic growth rate of 7 percent since the new century has boosted the legitimacy of Mr Hun Sen’s continued rule. It’s fair to say the stereotypical Western criticism of Cambodia and China-Cambodia relations is biased, with its logic and standards very confusing.
Cambodia has a multi-party democracy with legitimate opposition party. According to Western political standards, the country shouldn’t be the main target of the West in the Asean region. After all, there are socialist countries within Asean that are more unacceptable to the West.
Mr Hun Sen has refused to follow the US in its foreign policy and has never concealed his willingness to strengthen cooperation with China. He opposed Asean’s excessive involvement and external interference in the South China Sea issue. Naturally, the US wants to topple him through elections.
China and Cambodia established friendly relations in 1958. Mr Hun Sen’s 1996 visit to Beijing was a milestone in bilateral relations. Since then, China-Cambodia relations have developed smoothly and cooperation has continuously expanded. China has become Cambodia’s largest investor and trading partner.
Mr Hun Sen becoming a strongman is by no means China’s doing. The dramatic evolution of Cambodia’s political situation over the past years is an internal matter. Mr Hun Sen has led Cambodia to a high degree of political independence without making the country pay a social price. Cambodia not only walked out of the shadow of the civil war, but has also maintained long-term economic development.
China-Cambodia relations have been anchored in mutual respect and mutually beneficial cooperation. China has never linked investment and aid to Cambodia’s politics, nor does Beijing interfere in the country’s political affairs. It supports the choice of the Cambodian people no matter what.
Such a policy has yielded positive developments in China-Cambodia relations. Western countries should mull over the reasons instead of being jealous.