Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Critics sceptical of NGO's optimistic findings

Critics sceptical of NGO's optimistic findings

Sam Rainsy and Hun Sen shake hands in the stairs of the National Assembly in Phnom Penh in 2014 during less politically turbulent times.
Sam Rainsy and Hun Sen shake hands in the stairs of the National Assembly in Phnom Penh in 2014 during less politically turbulent times. Heng Chivoan

Critics sceptical of NGO's optimistic findings

Cambodians were optimistic about the economic and political future of the Kingdom, according to a national survey on citizens' perceptions released on Wednesday by the Asia Foundation, although observers yesterday questioned whether that optimism remains in light of the government’s recent crackdown on the opposition.

The findings in Cambodia: A Survey of Livelihood Strategies and Expectations for the Future, from research conducted between July and September 2015, show that a majority (56.2 per cent) of Cambodians feel the country is “generally headed in the right direction”, a substantial improvement over 2014.

Government dissatisfaction, according to the survey, stems mostly from nationalistic sentiments and economic policy, with the three most displeasing areas being “relations with Vietnam (38.9%), management of natural resources (34.8%), and the fight against corruption (25.6%)”.

What’s more, 55 per cent of respondents predicted that the next elections would be free and fair and yield policies of reform.

However, as noted in the Asia Foundation’s statement announcing the release of the study, this optimism was measured during “a period of political collaboration”.

That brief window of detente between the ruling Cambodian People’s Party and opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party – often referred to as the “culture of dialogue” – came before the beating of two opposition lawmakers, the ouster of deputy CNRP leader Kem Sokha as National Assembly vice president and the charges issued against CNRP head Sam Rainsy, which are widely believed to be politically motivated.

Those events, according to political analyst Ou Virak, “put the final nail in the coffin of the culture of dialogue”, and “would make the numbers a lot different”.

Optimism over future elections, he noted, may have stemmed from “the opposition raising expectations” of National Election Commission reform, which did not materialise. “It’s the same secretary-general,” he added.

However, Phay Siphan, a government spokesman, held that the optimism evidenced in the survey had nothing to do with cooperation between parties, and everything to do with the strong leadership of Prime Minister Hun Sen.

“In this period, Cambodians need a strong man like him,” he said, adding that political pluralism is not necessarily part of the culture, pointing to the failure of Prince Norodom Ranariddh’s government in 1993 – a failure that took place after several days of bloody factional fighting saw Hun Sen installed as the sole head of government by military forces loyal to him.

Siphan went on to criticise the opposition for “pointing fingers” rather than participating in policy-making. “The CNRP uses the same strategy of rebellion and of not participating as the Khmer Rouge in the 1960s and ’70s,” he said.

MOST VIEWED

  • Kingdom may hire Turkish power ship

    Cambodia is considering negotiating with Turkey to hire a 200MW-capacity power ship to meet electricity demands as the country faces an ongoing electrical shortage, according to the prime minister. Speaking to garment workers in Pursat province on Wednesday, Prime Minister Hun Sen said Electricite du

  • Woman who scaled Cambodia’s three highest peaks eyes Everest

    One of the very few Cambodian women to have successfully reached the Kingdom’s three highest peaks is now eyeing Malaysia’s tallest mountain, Mount Kinabalu, and potentially even the world’s tallest straddling Nepal and China, Mount Everest. While in many Western countries it

  • EDC tackles power shortfall

    Electrcite Du Cambodge (EDC) on Monday issued a statement updating the public on its efforts to tackle insufficient electricity supplies during the ongoing dry season. Reductions in electricity prices have resulted in a steady increase in consumers in the Kingdom, while local and international investors

  • Cheap, clean and efficient: The firm leading Cambodia’s solar revolution

    Sitting in her bright and airy 17th floor office, Rithya Menon, Okra Smart Solar’s lead firmware engineer, checks the frequently updating data telling her everything about how well their community services are operating. “I saw in the data that there was a problem with