“I want justice, because people voted for CNRP,” opposition supporter Hok Rim, 32, said. “If there’s no solution, I’m ready to join more protests.”
From land-grab protests to strikes in the key garment sector, public discontent shows that Hun Sen can no longer rely on his image as a liberator from the horrors of the Khmer Rouge to underpin support, experts say. Hun Sen is a former Khmer Rouge cadre who defected and oversaw Cambodia’s rise from the ashes of war. His government is regularly accused of ignoring human rights and suppressing political dissent.
While garment exports and tourism have brought double-digit economic growth, Cambodia remains one of the world’s poorest countries, and younger Cambodians are also increasingly intolerant of endemic corruption. However, experts say the 61-year-old prime minister — who has vowed to rule until he is 74 — is unlikely to relinquish his grip of power yet.
“Hun Sen will want to take the moral high ground and appear to be cooperating in the interest of national unity and reconciliation,” said Carl Thayer, a professor at the University of New South Wales in Australia. “But he will not let political reforms undermine the basis of his power.”