Local elections coming up in early June will be Cambodia’s biggest event of 2017. If the Cambodian National Rescue Party wins the popular vote in the upcoming June 4th local elections then Hun Sen, the Cambodian Prime Minister, and the People’s Party will be surprised and they will have to rethink their calculations when it comes to the 2018 elections. Last year, Prime Minister Hun Sen and the CPP, Cambodian People’s Party, severely intensified persecution on a political front. They began to target Cambodia’s political opposition, human rights workers, social activists, and public intellectuals.
Kem Ley, a highly admired political commentator, was murdered on July 10 in Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. Ley was not afraid to voice his frustrations with the government which led to his shooting. This shooting took place during the day and citizens of Cambodia ran after the gunman until the police were able to detain him. The shooter was later identified as a past soldier from the capital’s exterior, but controversy stirred when there was not a large effort to locate those involved with the shooting. Authorities in Cambodia decided to reject the citizens’ desire to hold a peaceful protest. Several veteran military officials stood by the authority’s decision to suppress protests and demonstrations. The resilience of the authorities frustrated the citizens even more and on July 24, 2016 tens of thousands of people marched in memory of the late Kem Ley.
Just three months ago, Sam Rainsy, the leader of the opposition party suddenly stepped down following the rise of pressure from the Cambodian government. Rainsy had led the party for over twenty years so it was surprising to see him depart from the position. The government of Cambodia was able to dispose of National Rescue Party that Rainsy led. Sam Rainsy and Prime Minister Hun Sen did not get along well and constantly disagreed. Rainsy had this to say about Hun Sen, “This guy is crazy, he can do anything he wants without consideration for legal, judicial principles, so I have to defend my party and tell Hun Sen and tell the Cambodian people and tell the whole world that Hun Sen no longer has any grounds to dissolve the C.N.R.P. on the basis that his kangaroo court has made me a convict”. Rainsy was very productive throughout his leadership, he presented a universally clear opposition opponent to carry out a campaign in elections.