Monday, 22 August 2011

Toward Consolidation of Democracy in Cambodia

In general, most Cambodian and foreign scholars have a common view that the problem of democracy in Cambodia is derived from two main factors: politics of violence and hegemony, and a kind of democracy which has been implanted by external force (UNTAC) to settle internal conflicts. In addition, Cambodia lacks political culture in favor of democracy due to the fact that this culture was totally destroyed during Khmer Rouge regime. In structural analysis, there is the dominance of the executive branch over the legislative and the judicial branches which makes liberal democracy has limited space to develop, resulting in no check and balance and rule of law. In consequence, consolidation of democracy in Cambodia seems to be curbed at its beginning point and further weakened by a passive civil society with limited freedom of speech.

The loss of social foundation for democracy in Cambodia could be replaced with the new civil society which is experiencing through globalization and Western ideas, human resource development, gradual evolution of social concept on democracy which is being promoted regular parliamentary elections and commune council elections in Cambodia itself, the works of many NGOs and human rights groups, and socio-economic development in the country. Together with the rule of law, a strong and active civil society will gradually create an autonomous political society which favors democracy as the best form of government and abandonment of violence as a means for achieving power. Therefore, an active civil society in Cambodia is needed in the process of democratic consolidation and it is the responsibility of the Government to set favorable environment for the development of civil society by strengthening the rule of law, increasing freedom of speech, and promoting a free media.           

With the importance of the civil society, efforts should be made by the Government to promote a dynamic civil society in Cambodia through providing more freedom of speech and expression, a free and unbiased media, elimination of the patronage and clientelism, and corruption culture in Cambodian society through human resource and economic development, and removal of the defamation lawsuits. Unless Cambodia has gained a more active civil society, the issue of democratic consolidation in Cambodia cannot be realized or remain in the slowest speed.        

Therefore, it will take a long way to go to consolidated democracy since Cambodia is still a society in triple transitions [war to peace, authoritarianism to democracy, and command economy to market economy, Sorpong Peou (2001)], especially from war to peace. The ongoing Khmer Rouge tribunal with cooperation from the UN clearly indicates that war has just been ended and peace is on the beginning. This means that Cambodia has just completed the transitional period from war to peace which have lasted 18 years (1989-2007). Combined with Dankwart Rustow’s argument that national unity is an indispensable ingredient of transition to democracy, Cambodia is just a new hurdle-runner on the way of consolidation to liberal democracy on which they are many hurdles along this way as I stated above. Therefore, the gist of point is to strengthen peace and stability and promote economic development that eventually promotes democratic stability or follow “East Asian Model of Democracy” as argued by some scholars. While securing peace, national stability and unity, and economic development, Cambodia should also promote the establishment of institutional and civil society foundation for a liberal democracy on step by step basis with strong political commitment to do so.

Other articles on Cambodia: 

    (5 March 2014)

    (17 October 2011)

    (03 October 2011)

    (12 September 2011)

6. Review of Cambodia's Economy and Finance (up to 2011)
    (31 August 2011)

     (22 August 2011)

    (17 August 2011)

    (17 August 2011)

    (16 August 2011)

      (15 August 2011)

      (15 August 2011)

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