Door closes on a year of cautious recovery, election, ASEAN leadership
2022 was a whirlwind year for Cambodian news, shaped by a much-welcomed return to some semblance of normalcy post-Covid-19, economic fallout from the Ukraine crisis, the Commune Council Election, constitutional amendments, and the Kingdom’s rotating chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN.
As we step into 2023, we take a look back over the top local stories covered by The Post in 2022.
Prime Minister Hun Sen visits Myanmar as ASEAN chair
On January 7-8, a few days after assuming the rotating chairmanship of ASEAN for 2022, Prime Minister Hun Sen visited Myanmar. He met with Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, chairman of Myanmar’s ruling State Administration Council (SAC), to address the emerging humanitarian crisis and attempt to prevent the Southeast Asian bloc’s westernmost country from falling into violence and civil war, through the provision of non-discriminatory assistance in line with the ASEAN leaders’ Five-Point Consensus (5PC).
Hun Sen shared the success of his win-win policy in Cambodia with Min Aung Hlaing, claiming that the experience and lessons the Kingdom had gained from the process of peacemaking, comprehensive peace and national reconciliation could not be achieved without the participation and agreement of all stakeholders.
Prak Sokhonn, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and Special Envoy of the ASEAN chair on Myanmar, considered the negotiations a step forward in the implementation of the 5PC.
After the meeting, Cambodia and Myanmar issued a joint statement, with Min Aung Hlaing welcoming the participation of the ASEAN special envoy to discuss a ceasefire with the ethnic armed organisations (EAOs).
Hun Sen attends World Summit on ‘Peace on the Korean Peninsula’
Prime Minister Hun Sen paid a four-day visit to South Korea in February to attend the 2022 World Summit under the theme “Toward Peace on the Korean Peninsula”.
During the meeting, he proposed the initiative of “two states towards one nation, one peninsula, one people, one culture” in peace talks on the Korean Peninsula.
“To find peace on the Korean Peninsula, pressure alone will not be effective in resolving the deepening conflict between the two Koreas,” he said.
ASEAN chair Leads Delegation to ASEAN-US Special Summit
Hun Sen, in his capacity as ASEAN chair, led a delegation to the ASEAN-US Special Summit in Washington on May 12-13 to discuss promoting and maintaining peace, security, stability and prosperity in the region.
Following the summit, ASEAN and the US adopted a Joint Vision Statement, and pledged to improve the maintenance and promotion of peace, security and stability in the region. This included the peaceful settlement of disputes, including full respect for the legal and diplomatic proceedings in accordance with international law without resorting to threats or the use of force.
In addition, ASEAN and the US urged Myanmar to implement the 5PC in a timely manner.
With regards to the South China Sea, ASEAN leaders and US President Joe Biden called for concrete measures to reduce tensions and risks, misunderstandings and misjudgements, and for building trust between nations.
ASEAN and US leaders supported the development of ASEAN infrastructure to strengthen digital economic cooperation, “smart city” development, and committed to work together to conserve ASEAN biodiversity and natural resources.
On that occasion, Hun Sen asked the US to provide more support for the implementation of the comprehensive recovery framework and promote essential and digital infrastructure connectivity. He also called for promoting public health cooperation and strengthening global health measures against future pandemics.
Commune Council Election
Cambodia held its 5th commune council elections on June 5, with the participation of 17 parties and tens of thousands of national and international observers.
Before election day, the National Election Committee (NEC) permitted all parties to campaign for 20 days, from May 21 to one day before the election.
More than 7.12 million voters exercised their democratic rights, the equivalent of 77.91 per cent of the 9.2 million registered voters.
Nine parties won seats, with the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) taking a total of 9,376 seats, receiving 1,648 commune chiefs, 1,618 first deputies and 261 second deputies. The Candlelight Party won four commune chiefs, 25 first deputies and 1,360 second deputies.
FUNCINPEC won 19 seats; Khmer National United Party 13; Grassroots Democratic Party 6; Cambodia Nation Love Party 5; Cambodian Youth Party 3; and Kampuchea Niyum Party and Beehive Social Democratic Party each claiming one.
Promulgation of the Law on the Amendment of the Constitution
The Law on the Amendment to Articles 19, 89, 98, 102, 119 and 125 of the Constitution and New Articles 3 and 4 of the Constitution was officially endorsed by King Norodom Sihamoni on August 8, following the National Assembly’s approval on July 28 and the Senate’s final review of August 5.
The amendments are intended to ensure the normal functioning of national institutions. It means the king will appoint a prime minister and the formation of a royal government based on a proposal from the political party with the most seats in the National Assembly.
Cambodia hosts 40th and 41st ASEAN Summits and related meetings
Cambodia hosted the 40th and 41st ASEAN Summits and related summits from November 8-13 in Phnom Penh. The leaders of ASEAN countries, 29 other partner countries and many other international institutions attended.
The ASEAN Summits included the ASEAN Plus Three (China, Japan and South Korea), ASEAN-US, ASEAN-Canada, ASEAN-Australia, ASEAN-India, ASEAN-UN, ASEAN-China, ASEAN-Japan, ASEAN-South Korea, the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (TAC) and an in-principle agreement to admit Timor-Leste as the 11th member of ASEAN.
Cambodia benefited greatly from the summits, with at least 100 documents signed with partner countries.As ASEAN chair, Hun Sen said the most significant outcome of the meetings was the national prestige that the Kingdom achieved, which will be historically important to future generations.
Cambodia hosts the 43rd ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (AIPA)
Cambodia held the 43rd ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (AIPA) from November 20-25 in Phnom Penh. It was attended by eight ASEAN countries, with Malaysia and Myanmar as observers due to their ongoing internal issues. More than 500 guests and dignitaries from 16 countries attended, including an AIPA delegation.
The meeting was held under the theme “Advancing Together for a Sustainable, Inclusive, and Resilient ASEAN” and many other agendas, and featured a welcome message from King Norodom Sihamoni, and speeches from Prime Minister Hun Sen, Senate president Say Chhum and National Assembly president Heng Samrin, who was also the chairman of AIPA.
The assembly was presented by six committees, including the Women Parliamentarians, Young Parliamentarians, and political, economic, social and organisational matters.
The session also held a handover ceremony of the flags of the AIPA, and the conferment of the observer status to the parliamens of Nepal, Azerbaijan and the US.
Samrin stated after the meeting that the AIPA is remains important, and it is appropriate to build partnerships with outsiders to gain new driving forces.
He also congratulated the Nepalese and Azerbaijani parliaments and the US Congress for being accepted as full-fledged observer bodies. He expressed confidence that the AIPA observers and partners will continue to promote the relationship and that cooperation with the AIPA will become stronger and closer.
ASEAN chair leads delegates to ASEAN-EU Summit in Belgium
Hun Sen co-chaired the ASEAN-EU Commemorative Summit with European Council president Charles Michel in Brussels, Belgium, on December 14 to mark the 45th anniversary of their dialogue partnership.
During the meeting, many topics were discussed, including the defence sector and security in key areas such as maritime security, women, peace and security (WPS) agenda, youth, peace and security, peacekeeping operations, medical, military, cybersecurity, and counter-terrorism as well as humanitarian and disaster relief.
On regional and global issues, Hun Sen noted that the world was facing its greatest challenge since World War II as geopolitical rivalries between the great powers have shaken the international order and threatened peace, stability and prosperity.
During the meeting, the premier called on ASEAN and the EU to do their best to build peace and stability in the region as well as in the world, as global peace has suffered from threats by some states that openly violate globally recognised laws, norms and international principles.
One day before the meeting, Hun Sen and French President Emmanuel Macron called on Russia to cease its attacks on the civilian population and infrastructure of Ukraine.
Closing of the Kem Sokha case
On December 21, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court announced the conclusion of the trial for former Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) president Kem Sokha, who stands accused of “conspiring with foreign powers” to topple the government. After 63 hearings over five years, the verdict is scheduled to be announced on March 3, 2023.
During the hearing, Sokha’s co-lawyers demanded that the court drop the charges against their client. Prosecutors requested that the former CNRP president be re-arrested and remanded into custody, describing the defendant’s actions as treasonous crimes that resulted in damage, injuries and loss of life.
Sokha was arrested at his home in Phnom Penh’s Tuol Kork district at midnight on September 3, 2017 and sent to Trapeang Thlong prison, before a court ruled that he could be temporarily released under judicial supervision. He was banned from engaging in political activities, had to appear whenever summoned by the court, and was barred from travelling abroad.
Sokha faces 15 to 30 years in prison if found guilty.