News in Review: Cambodia – November 10, 2015

Photo captured by the AP, and published in the Bangkok Post on November 4, 2015. Chay Sarith and Mao Hoeun, two of the three military soliders who “confessed” to assaulting two opposition lawmakers, are escorted to the Phnom Penh Municipal Court by police officers on November 4 (AP photo).

Cambodia’s “Culture of Dialogue” has dwindled to a culture of fear as Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) and the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) remain at odds. Military soldiers have come forward and confessed to assaulting CNRP lawmakers, who remain hospitalized in Bangkok. The CNRP is pressuring the ruling CPP not to relinquish land to Vietnam, in a long-standing border dispute. Cambodia looks to be competitive in the global market, and China recently provided Cambodia with “shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles.”

Cambodian Soldiers Confess to Beating Lawmakers; No Arrests Made

Three Cambodian military soldiers turned themselves in and confessed to beating two Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) lawmakers on October 26. The lawmakers, who remain in a Bangkok hospital, were attacked after leaving a parliamentary session. They were dragged from their cars and suffered extensive injuries, including facial lacerations, a torn eardrum, and broken bones. The off-duty soldiers, who have not been arrested, claim that they were reacting to the lawmakers after they hurled racist insults at the soldiers. The lawmakers deny the claims and say that more than three men were involved in the beatings and remain at-large, including the “masterminds” of the attacks. The investigating committee, composed of eight high-ranking police and ministry officials, has stated that it will not investigate the incident further. The CNRP says it will boycott future parliamentary sessions unless stricter security measures are provided for its politicians. Concerned about the future of justice and democracy in the country, Human Rights Watch is calling on the Cambodian government to “ask the Cambodia field office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to conduct an independent investigation into the attack, and make a commitment to act on its findings.”

Cambodia: Chilling Account of Attacks on Legislators.” Human Rights Watch. October 31, 2015.

Kethya Tha, Samean Yun and Hong Sokunthea. “Cambodia Orders Security Strengthened For All Politicians After Assault on Lawmakers.” Radio Free Asia. November 5, 2015.

Narim, Khuon, and Mech Dara. “Hun Sen Says Lawmakers Hurled Insults Before Beatings.” The Cambodia Daily. November 6, 2015.

Three Cambodian soldiers confess to beating lawmakers.” PressTV. November 5, 2015.

 Cambodia faces Obstacles in Ascending to the Global Market

The ASEAN Economic Community will be formed in two months, with hope that Cambodia’s unskilled labor population will transition into a manufacturing hub. ASEAN’s free trade zone will be led by professions with “internationally recognized skills,” such as medicine, engineering, accounting, architecture, and tourism. Cambodia performs well in tourism, but less so in the other fields, signaling a need to strengthen schooling and vocational training in the country (which is still reeling from the effects of the Khmer Rouge period). It is expected that Thailand and Vietnam will continue to produce large-scale goods, while Cambodia could produce smaller-scale manufactured items. This would take pressure off the garment industry, which took off after Cambodia joined the WTO in 2004. Moreover, the AEC will give way to a regionally liberalized economy, including the freedom of movement with people and goods. This is expected to open up jobs and counter the demand for human trafficking and the smuggling of people.

Chan, Sok. Chinese Auto Group Plans Factory Here. Khmer Times. November 1, 2015.

Hunt, Luke. “Cambodia Pins Economic Hopes on AEC.” Voice of America. November 1, 2015.

Kunmakara, May. “Shaping Up Requires Action.” Khmer Times. November 1, 2015.

Cambodia and Vietnam Dispute over Border Demarcation

On October 27-28, Cambodia’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior Sar Kheng, Vietnam’s Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh, and their respective ambassadors met in in Ho Chi Minh City for their eighth meeting on border province cooperation and development. The meeting upheld the countries’ commitment to bilateral relations and trade. Trade between the two countries increased to $2.3 billion USD this year. And, Vietnam is currently investing 172 projects in Cambodia, valued at $3.61 billion USD, making it the second biggest investor in Cambodia. All the while, a border delimitation dispute remains over the Dak Dam Commune. It is an issue dating back to 1953, when Cambodia achieved independence from France. Vietnam stated it would take 60 percent of the land, and leave 40 percent to Cambodia. Cambodian opposition parties strongly contest the deal and previously tore out Vietnam demarcation border posts, on the grounds that they are on Cambodian land.

Chev, Prach. “Cambodia Asserts Sovereignty Over Disputed Border Area With Vietnam.” Radio Free Asia. November 4, 2015.

Dara, Mech. “Vietnam Agrees to Hasten Border Demarcation.” The Cambodia Daily. October 30, 2015.

Vietnam affirms sovereignty over central area that borders Cambodia.” Tuoi Tre News. November 3, 2015.

Vietnam, Cambodia advance border province cooperation.” Ho Chi Minh City. October 28, 2015.

China Provides Cambodia with Missiles

China and Cambodia recently signed an assistance deal, in which China is providing Cambodia with “shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles.” Cambodia and China are long-standing allies. China has also offered to help with Cambodia’s military training and the construction of its military academies. Moreover, China is the biggest investor in Cambodia and purchases the bulk of its natural resource exports. The deal followed a contentious meeting in which other ASEAN countries challenged China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea.

Sokheng, Vong. Chinese defence boss brings military aid. The Phnom Penh Post. November 6, 2015.

Sokrith, Ban and Phun Chan Ousaphea. “Stand Strong, Defense Minister Tells Military.” Khmer Times. November 5, 2015.

Thul, Prak Chan. “China supplies Cambodia with anti-aircraft hardware in new military aid.” Reuters. November 6, 2015.

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