“Attempts to dissolve Cambodia’s opposition party are the latest move by a small, corrupt elite to maintain its grip on power and wealth at the expense of the rest of the country. The international community cannot stand back and watch as the country slides into outright dictatorship. Cambodia’s donors and trading partners have the power to intervene, ” said Global Witness campaigner Emma Burnett.
The international community has invested heavily in rebuilding what was, at the end of the Khmer Rouge era, a shattered country, and now Cambodia is one of the world’s fastest growing economies. But this growth has been woefully uneven, helping to consolidate power and wealth in the hands of a small and dangerous elite, while much of the population still struggle to feed their families.
Prime Minister Hun Sen, members of his family, and a small coterie of cronies hold key posts across politics, the military, police and the media - sectors that prop up the premier’s ruling party through propaganda, political donations or brute force. Global Witness investigations have helped prove how these people have also been amassing huge fortunes in the private sector, wielding significant control across most of the country’s lucrative industries.
The social and environmental fall-out has been extreme. Companies controlled by this elite have overseen the devastation of Cambodia’s forests, and an epidemic of land grabs that have caused mass displacement and destitution among Cambodia’s rural poor.
Burnett added, “Recent international condemnation of the government’s assault on the opposition, the free media and civil society appears to have fallen on deaf ears, but money speaks louder than words. The US and the European Union must urgently impose sanctions on the government that will force it to reconsider its onwards march towards outright dictatorship.”
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