Cambodia: Hun Sen Orders a Lockdown in Phnom Penh under the Pretext of COVID


By Laurence Humphries, Revolutionary Communist International Tendency, 13 August 2021,




Hun Sen, a former commander of the Khmer Rouge, became de facto leader of Cambodia after the fall of the Pol Pot regime. He is a hardened Stalinist who has remained in power for over 40 years. The new variant of the Covid 19 virus has hit countries in South East Asia badly, including Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia. With the fall of the Soviet Union in the 1991, the Hun Sen Stalinist Bureaucracy like many former Stalinist states including Vietnam, Laos, Cuba and North Korea reverted to a capitalist mode of production. There was never an attempt to introduce Socialism. China and Russia are the two main emerging imperialist powers openly competing with the imperialist powers of Japan, Europe, the USA and South Korea.


“Prime Minister Hun Sen late on July 28 instructed the municipal and provincial authorities nationwide to strictly enforce Covid-19 measures including curfew for two weeks from July 29 midnight through August 12 to stem the new coronavirus Delta variant. The instruction came shortly after he issued a directive mandating lockdowns in eight provinces bordering Thailand – Koh Kong, Pursat, Battambang, Pailin, Banteay Meanchey, Oddar Meanchey, Preah Vihear and Siem Reap – from July 29 midnight through August 12.” [1]


“The government has decided to place several border provinces in lockdown for two weeks in a bid to prevent the new coronavirus Delta variant spreading further into community. According a directive signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen late on July 28, the provinces include Koh Kong, Pursat, Battambang, Pailin, Banteay Meanchey, Oddar Meanchey, Preah Vihear and Seem Reap.” [2]


Hun Sen runs Cambodia as a Bonapartist dictator locking people up as prisoners in their own homes with no attempt at medical supervision. It is a further means to conduct surveillance on the population and particularly amongst the urban poor and poor peasants who are prevented from leaving their houses even to visit family members. The global phenomena of the Covid 19 Virus have been used all over the world to create social inequality, austerity, poverty and degradation for the mass of the people living in Cambodia.




Human Rights Abuses in Cambodia




Hun Sen’s Government is notorious for its human rights abuses. It is probably one of the worst for locking up opponents particularly bourgeois politicians who are campaigning for democratic rights and basic Freedoms. Hun Sen narrowly won the 2019 Election by jailing and arresting democratic campaigners. Many of these bourgeois democratic leaders are in exile in the United States.


There are a number of poor migrants who work in Thailand and could only use one river crossing to move back home to Cambodia. Thailand has closed the border because it has large an epidemic of the Delta variant. After issuing the orders for lockdown and curfew health officials in Cambodia have now contradicted themselves by saying that any migrant who was working in Thailand and tested positive must not stay at home but be admitted to several makeshift treatment centres.


“Minister of Health Mam Bun Heng has advised all healthcare institutions and hospitals throughout the country to refrain from letting Covid-19 patients infected with the Delta variant convalesce at home. The decision came after the government set up quarantine and treatment centres in the capital and interior provinces to receive Cambodian workers returning from Thailand who had been quarantining in the border provinces, with some of them testing positive for the Delta variant. Bun Heng, who is also head of the Inter-ministerial Committee to Combat Covid-19, said in a letter dated August 9 that the decision was based on the need to manage the treatment of Covid-19 based on the epidemiological data on the spread of the Delta variant as well as on studies on the possibility of infections. “Covid-19 patients with the Delta variant – confirmed by the laboratory or suspected cases and whether they are imported or from community transmission – are not allowed to recover at home Treatment is required at a Covid-19 treatment centre or in Covid-19 hospitals as determined according to the actual health of those patients,” the letter stated”. [3]


“Some neighbourhoods in Phnom Penh with a particularly high number of COVID-19 cases have also been locked down and sealed off with roadblocks crewed by police and military police. Cambodia has one of the region’s most underfunded healthcare systems. The most recent World Bank figures show that only 5 percent of government spending goes on healthcare, compared with 9 percent in Vietnam and 15 percent in Thailand. The burden is borne by Cambodians themselves: 57 percent of the country’s health expenditure comes “out of pocket” – only Myanmar, at 76 percent, is higher. Cambodia also has the lowest reported figure in the region for hospital beds per 1,000 people – at 0.9. Access to healthcare is also particularly difficult for poor Cambodians in rural provinces, studies show”. [4]




Revolutionary Demands




What this shows is that instead of improving the healthcare system in Cambodia, the Hun Sen government is desperately looking around for vaccines from Britain, Japan and China hoping that this will cure or stop the Delta variant. This, of course, is nonsense. The bourgeois regime is concerned to make pharmaceutical companies rich but at the same time it refuses to help the poor peasants in the outlying villages in Cambodia. In Indonesia and Vietnam there is the same response. What it needs is a socialist planned healthcare system controlled and run by workers and popular councils.


The RCIT has been the only socialist organisation to recognise the dangers of the COVID 19 Counter Revolution carried out by global capitalist powers in response to the continuing social unrest and struggles of the working class in many countries all over the world. The Lockdown and curfews were not about healthcare or consciously helping the masses and urban poor recover from the virus but a counter-revolutionary attack to introduce a bonapartist state and to attack basic democratic rights. We analysed the historic period from the start of the Great Recession in 2008-09 and the consequences on this drift towards dictatorship and war. The continuing inter-imperialist rivalry between Russia, China and the Western imperialist powers like the USA, Japan and Europe. The Covid Counterrevolution is being used in South-East Asia to lockdown its population, to prevent social unrest and make use of high-tech surveillance techniques like drones and high-tech weapon ware. This also ensures that the billionaires remain rich and multinational corporations will see their profits soar. As we have analysed, the worst virus is the capitalist system!


“A recently published report by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reveals the devastating consequences of the capitalist Lockdown policy. The reports analysis the effects of the anti-pandemic policy of the governments in South Asia – a region which is home to 1.96 billion people or nearly 25% of the world population.


It is well-known that the draconic mass curfew imposed by the right-wing Modi governments in India had horrendous consequences for the popular masses. People – many of them day laborer – could no longer go to work. Slums were cordoned off and many millions of rural migrants were forces to leave the cities and to walk (as transport was closed) to their native villages. Likewise, the capitalist Lockdown policy resulted in severe disruption of social and health service. Other governments in the region imposed similar measures. It is impossible to ignore the cynicism of the imperialist governments and their media. They shed crocodile tears when a pandemic results in the death of people mostly in their 70s, 80s or older living in rich countries. But it hardly makes it into the news when the Lockdown policy, which supposedly shall save lives, kills hundreds of thousands of children who, under other circumstances, could have had a whole life ahead of them! You see, the lives of old white people are much more worth than those of children living in the South!


These tragic developments demonstrate, once more, that the official policy of capitalist government which supposedly should help fighting the pandemic, in fact is incapable to combat the pandemic, causes many unnecessary deaths, destroys the future for large sectors of the world population, and attacks democratic rights. These tragic developments demonstrate, once more, that the official policy of capitalist government which supposedly should help fighting the pandemic, in fact is incapable to combat the pandemic, causes many unnecessary deaths, destroys the future for large sectors of the world population, and attacks democratic rights. Shamefully, the opportunist left-wing parties deny this elementary truth. In order to ensure themselves a place in the institutions of the capitalist state or in the ranks of the labor bureaucracy (or at least in hope for such), the Lockdown Left supports more or less all pillars of the bonapartist government policy (like lockdowns, banning of mass events under the pretext of “social distancing”, mass vaccination, etc.). [7] In consequence, while Marxists have fought the COVID-19 Counterrevolution from the very beginning, these crawling capitulationists have become its social-bonapartist servants.” [5]


The RCIT puts forward the following programme of demands. We call on all workers and the rural poor in Cambodia to read our programme for revolutionary change and to take up arms to rid Cambodia of the Hun Sen bonapartist clique like the masses in Myanmar.


* For a proper nationalised health system under workers and popular control. The private pharmaceutical companies must be nationalised under workers control, their profits to be redistributed for research into the virus.


* A massive public works building programme to build more hospitals, care centres and recruitment and training of health professionals through proper use of test and trace and proper PPE equipment to protect workers.


* Oppose the lockdown and curfew as a basic attack on democratic rights, a move towards bonapartism by the Hun Sen Government. Prepare for an general strike and an uprising to remove the Hun Sen administration.


* Form self-defence battalions to fight and protect the masses and urban poor from provocations and state arrests.


* For a workers and poor peasants government based on popular councils and militias.


Build a Revolutionary World Party and join the RCIT!






1) PM imposes nationwide Covid restrictions, curfew over Delta scare | Phnom Penh Post


2) Provinces on Thai borders put in lockdown amid Delta fears | Phnom Penh Post


3) Delta patients ‘can’t stay home’ | Phnom Penh Post


4) COVID variant pushes Cambodia to brink of ‘national tragedy’ | Coronavirus pandemic News | Al Jazeera


5) COVID-19: The Capitalist Anti-Pandemic Policy Kills More People than the Pandemic Itself - International Revolution (