Cambodia: Organize the Struggle against the Hun Sen Government


Build an Independent Workers Party! For a Workers and Poor Peasants Government!


By Joseph Adams, Revolutionary Communist International Tendency, 7 May 2018,




Prime Minister Hun Sen, leader of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), has set the date for the Cambodian general election July 29th 2018.


“Cambodia's strongman premier Hun Sen has set July 29 as the date for a highly anticipated 2018 general election, according to a document seen by AFP Saturday. The poll will be a major test for the authoritarian premier, whose government has spent the past few years cracking down on an opposition movement trying to break his 32-year grip on power.” [1]


Hun Sen is one of the longest serving Prime Ministers in the world having been Prime Minister five times. A corrupt bourgeois politician Hun Sen has ruled Cambodia with an iron hand suppressing all opposition and using the military to kill and imprison his political opponents. He has systematically abrogated power to himself. An Ex-Stalinist, he instituted the 1997 Coup to ensure he was the sole Prime Minister. This repressive regime is hated and despised by the masses and poor peasants who are daily exploited by his pro-capitalist policies.


“One of the world's longest-serving leaders, he has been described as a 'wily operator who destroys his political opponents', and as a dictator who has assumed authoritarian power in Cambodia using violence, intimidation and corruption to maintain his power base. Under his dictatorial regime, thousands of opposition activists, politician’s environmentalists, and human rights workers have been murdered.” [2]




Long History of Authoritarian Rule




His repressive and autocratic regime has jailed thousands of opponents killing protesters and banning political parties who are a threat to him. Hun Sen rose to power in 1979 when the Vietnamese Stalinists installed him into power after the Cambodian civil war. Hun Sen was a battalion commander of the Khymer Rouge. After the fall of the Khymer Rouge, Hun Sen was well placed with the support of the Vietnamese military to take power.


“In 1977, during internal purges of the Khmer Rouge regime, Hun Sen and his battalion cadres fled to Vietnam. Hun Sen became one of the leaders of the rebel army and government that the Vietnamese government sponsored when they prepared to invade Cambodia. When the Khmer Rouge regime was defeated, Hun Sen was appointed as Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of the Vietnamese-installed.” [3]


In 1997 a coup was instigated against the Co-Prime Minister at the time and it was believed that Hun Sen had instigated the coup to remove his political opponents. After a United Nations brokered peace deal elections were arranged and Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s party won the 1998 general election.


“In response, Hun Sen launched the 1997 Cambodian Coup replacing Ranariddh with Ung Hout as the First Prime Minister and maintaining his position as the Second Prime Minister, a situation which lasted until the CPP's victory in the 1998 election, after which he became the country's sole Prime Minister.” [4]


Sam Rainsy, former leader of the bourgeois, pro-Western Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP), has called for a boycott of the election as long as the CNRP remains a banned party and cannot stand candidates in the forthcoming general election and its leader remains under arrest on trumped up charges.


“Cambodia's former opposition leader, Sam Rainsy, called on Sunday for Cambodians to boycott a general election set for July 29 if his dissolved party isn't allowed to take part. The Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) was dissolved by the Supreme Court last November at the request of Prime Minister Hun Sen's government, which alleged it was plotting to take power with the help of the United State The CNRP and the United States have denied the allegations, which followed the arrest of current party leader Kem Sokha on treason charges over the alleged plot. He has denied the charges and called them a ploy to help Hun Sen win re-election.” [5]


In the 2013 general election Hun Sen came close to defeat. He won only a narrow majority against a background of voting irregularities. Again arrests and attacks on political opponents were used by Hun Sen to prevent political opposition from challenging him for power. Hun Sen’s government has been marked by suspending and banning political parties for any reason whatsoever. There were protests in Phnom Penh.


“Having come close to defeat in 2013, the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) has since cracked down on the opposition, arresting key political figures and members of civil society. Nevertheless the main opposition, the Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) made significant strides in this year’s local elections (gaining 44% of the popular vote). The CNRP believes it can win next year’s general election During opposition demonstrations in Freedom Park, Phnom Penh, after the 2013 election, one person was killed after police used tear gas and live bullets to disperse the protesters. Repeat incidents are possible, particularly if hardcore CNRP activists react negatively to the increasing government force which many anticipate.” [6]




Poor Semi-Colony Super-Exploited by Imperialism




Cambodia is a very poor semi colonial country with a largely agricultural economy. It has a poverty rate of at least 40%. Hun Sen and the Cambodian People’s Party have opened up the country to foreign investors. Cambodia is heavily influenced by imperialist powers like China which invest heavily in the country and exploit the workforce who are paid low starvation wages.


“Cambodia is set for expected GDP growth of 7% this year and next, as it continues to evolve from an agricultural to a market economy (aided by vast reserves of onshore and offshore gas fields, which will help to diversify the economy and drive future growth.” [7]


As the RCIT has previously commented, Cambodia is highly indebted to imperialist powers like China which is now challenging the older Great Powers like USA, Japan and Europe for a bigger share of the global market.


“Furthermore Cambodia is highly indebted to imperialist financial capital. It has external debts equivalent to 40% of its Gross National Income. Again, Chinese banks and financial institutions are Cambodia’s largest creditor of and thereby extract huge amounts of extra-profits. The dominant position of Chinese corporations once more confirms the RCIT’s analysis of China as an emerging imperialist power which exploits poor countries around the world, and which has become a serious rival to the old imperialist powers like the US, Japan, and the EU.” [8]




Revolutionary Perspectives




The RCIT welcomes discussion and collaboration with socialists in Cambodia. In our opinion, the most important task for the vanguard of the working class and the oppressed is to organize itself independent of all factions of the bourgeoisie. Hence, instead of supporting the CPP or the CNRP, socialists should strive to build an independent Workers Party. Such a party should, in our opinion, become part of a new Workers’ International.


Such a Workers’ Party would put together a revolutionary program which includes the expropriation of big business – including the imperialist corporations – and the nationalization of the banks under workers’ control. Another important task would be to rally the poor peasants for a program that expropriates the big landowners and foments an agrarian revolution. However, in doing so, the Workers’ Party has to patiently explain to the workers and poor peasants that sustainable democratic reform and social improvement can only be achieved if the working class takes power and creates a government of workers and poor peasants, based on councils and popular militias of armed masses.


Given the systematic abuse of democratic rights by the long-time dictatorship, the RCIT suggests to Cambodian socialists to consider raising the slogan of a Revolutionary Constituent Assembly on order to discuss the political future of the country.


It is obvious that the coming election is a charade organised by the regime. Unsurprisingly, the CNRP is calling for the boycott of the election.


It is crucial that socialists protest against the fake elections. Likewise, socialists should work to prepare organising a general strike against the Hun Sen regime.




















8) RCIT: Cambodia: Long Live the Heroic Struggle of the Textile Workers! Prepare for a General Strike! Build an Independent Workers Party! Fight for a Workers’ and Peasants’ Government! 18.1.2014,