The Myth of Cambodia's Recovery

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Contribution to Books

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"Pol Pot is dead." "The Khrmer Rouge defect." "Hun Sen brings peace to Cambodia." "Invest in Cambodia."

These headlines flashed across journals and newspapers in 1996. They all seem to point to growing political and social stability in Cambodia. But the supposed stability in Camboida is really a façade. Today, within Southeast Asia, Cambodia is more akin to the draconian state of Myanmar than to the more open societies of Singapore, the Philippines and other ASEAN states. Thus, many of these 1996 headlines have proved to be false while others have not been confirmed.

This article examines the current political structure within Cambodia. The supposed defection of long-time Khmer Rouge leader, Ieng Sary, does not assure peace for Cambodia. Bitter relations between the two major Cambodian political parties (FUNCINPEC and the Cambodian People's Party) and the two prime ministers, Hun Sen and Norodom Ranariddh, expose the veneer of stability beneath which a discontented rumbling grows.


This is a reprint of the original article published in Contemporary Southeast Asia, Volume 18, Number 4, March 1997.