Cambodia’s Façade Democracy and European Assistance

By Markus Karbaum

Abstract: Although Cambodia adopted a modern democratic constitution in 1993, Prime Minister Hun Sen has consolidated an autocratic regime in which elections are the only way political competition plays out, and even that competition is limited. Freedom of expression, horizontal and vertical control mechanisms, and civil participation have been reduced to almost zero by the Royal Government of Cambodia. Irrespective of the deinstitutionalization of liberal principles, the European Commission and some EU member states still perceive Cambodia as moving toward democratization. In the case of Cambodia, the difficulty of external democracy promotion is compounded by the limited impact of formal state institutions, which are completely undermined by kinship relations, personal networks, clientelism and nepotism. However, one can observe not only non-effective efforts toward European democracy promotion, but also increasing human rights violations due to trade facilitations, namely the EU’s “Everything But Arms” initiative.

Read the full article online in the Journal of Current Southeast Asian Affairs.

Dr. Markus Karbaum has been studying political science and Southeast Asia since 1999. Since 2008 he has been working as a freelance consultant and lecturer. His research focuses on Cambodia’s autocratic regime as well as political, social and economic developments in mainland Southeast Asia.

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