Daunting times for Malaysia


April 24, 2015

Daunting times for Malaysia

By Leslie Lopez / Kuala Lumpur of The Edge Review

Najib Vs MahathirMalaysia’s risk profile is rising fast as controversy over the government’s debt-freighted sovereign wealth fund continues to snowball. Stability fears are growing amid concerns over Prime Minister Najib Razak’s hold on power, fragility in the economy and tensions among Malaysia’s multi-racial population over religious issues.

The problems combine to make the country Southeast Asia’s biggest trouble spot after post-coup Thailand, struggling under draconian military rule.  But the main focus remains the months-old controversy swirling around 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB), a brainchild of Najib that is saddled with a debt of more than RM42 billion (US$11.62 billion).

The fund is struggling to service this huge debt load and analysts say any default on its borrowings, raised through international bond issues over the last six years, could undermine the country’s international ratings.

Most ratings agency have so far resisted openly voicing concerns, although Fitch warned in March that Malaysia had a more than 50 per cent chance of a downgrade from A- status, which would mean an added burden on government finances from an increased cost of borrowing.

The crisis surrounding 1MDB deepened this week with news that Malaysians may face hikes in their electricity bills of up to 20 per cent to raise funds to bail out the fund. Calls for an inquiry were also prompted on Wednesday amid media reports alleging that bank documents given by a 1MDB subsidiary, showing it had US$1.1 billion in assets, may have been faked.

1MDB has become a lightning rod in the campaign to remove Najib from office. Most notably, in recent weeks, former Prime inister Mahathir Mohamad has harangued Najib for the growing mess in the sovereign fund and describing Najib as unfit to lead the country.

Dr Mahathir has also piled on the pressure by reopening public debate into a number of personal scandals directly involving the Premier, including the unexplained murder of a Mongolian woman by two members of his private security detail and the lavish lifestyles of members of his family.

Najib has responded to criticism by saying he is judged by the country, not by his predecessor, and so far appears secure. But the political crisis is starting to spotlight deeper structural problems besetting the country.

“Malaysia’s troubles go beyond the personalities. The economy, its political system and its institutions need urgent reform, and, without all of this, Malaysia will continue to under-perform,” says Manu Bhaskaran, Chief Regional Strategist at Centennial Partners in Singapore.

The malaise is a product of more than three decades of policy missteps that began during Dr Mahathir’s 22 years in office. In that time, he pursued his own brand of command capitalism, with the government pouring billions of dollars into heavy industries and costly infrastructure projects that largely benefited cronies of the ruling United Malays National Organisation (UMNO).

He also put a check on dissent by cowing important institutions – such as the Judiciary and other regulatory agencies and the civil service – that largely became subservient to the National Front coalition government headed by UMNO.

That ambitious economic agenda is today in tatters. Over the years, the government has had to bail out many of the companies entrusted to carry out the big-ticket projects, while the push into heavy industries has been a major failure, with the collapse of the state-owned steel company, cement plants and ship-building facilities.

The limping national car project, Proton, is the sole vestige of Dr Mahathir’s ambitious economic blueprint and that too is struggling to stay afloat.

Economists and bankers say that the crisis unfolding at 1MDB is symptomatic of many economic fiascos that tarred the Mahathir administration: poorly conceived state-led ventures, often with questionable commercial merits, pushed through in a system bereft of proper checks and balances.

All of this has put the country’s US$303 billion economy on shaky ground. Even as it struggles with mounting household and government debt, Malaysia is one of the region’s biggest oil exporters and a recent downturn in prices has stripped the economy of a key growth driver. This is placing further strains on government finances, adding to fears of potential downgrades by international rating agencies.

The ringgit has also been battered to six-year lows against the US dollar and prospects of a further depreciation looms large as foreigners own nearly 40 per cent of the country’s ringgit-denominated debt.

The economic troubles have bred widespread public discontent towards UMNO, which dominates the coalition government that has held uninterrupted power since independence in 1957.

Independent polling outfit Merdeka Center recently reported that more than 60 per cent of Malaysians feel that Najib’s government is on the wrong track, compared with an approval rating of just 32 per cent.

This slump is the lowest since Najib took over the premiership six years ago and is largely due to sharp spikes in the cost of living, made worse with this month’s introduction of a goods and services tax – and by the attacks by his former mentor.

“The unrelenting Mahathir bashing of Najib is seriously damaging the National Front brand,” says Merdeka Center’s Ibrahim Suffian.

Dr Mahathir insists that his distaste for the Najib administration stems from the financial wrongdoings at 1MDB. But several politicians close to the premier argue that the animosity has more to do with Najib refusing to back several pet projects of Dr Mahathir, who is still revered within UMNO.

They include Najib’s refusal to build a new bridge to replace the causeway linking Malaysia and Singapore and the government’s refusal to provide Proton with a RM1.4 billion grant.There is also a strong political dimension to Dr Mahathir’s anger towards Najib. Close associates say that he believes the National Front, which suffered serious electoral setbacks in the 2008 and 2013 general elections, could be kicked out of power in the next elections, which must be held before mid-2018.

Dr Mahathir has genuine reasons to worry. The National Front’s stranglehold over Malaysian politics has sharply diminished. The coalition lost its long-held two-thirds parliamentary majority in 2008. Then at the 2013 election it lost the popular vote, securing only 47 per cent compared with the opposition’s 51 per cent.<

To restore its political clout, particularly among the country’s dominant Muslim Malay community, Najib has been pandering to rightist elements within UMNO, who have been pushing for greater cooperation with Islamic opposition Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS), which is determined to establish shariah law.

But Dr Mahathir believes UMNO’s dalliance with PAS could trigger a backlash from its coalition partners, particularly those in the Borneo states of Sabah and Sarawak, which together hold a crucial block of votes in parliament that could make or break the National Front at the next election.

The majority-Christian states are rich in resources and remain the country’s biggest producers of oil and gas. Now voters’ sentiments there are changing, with growing demands for more autonomy and a bigger share of natural resource revenues for the respective state governments.

MIER to Putrajaya: Listen to the People


April 22, 2015

MIER to Putrajaya: Listen to the People

By Zurairi AR@www.themalaymailonline.com

The Malaysian Institute of Economic Research (MIER) urged Putrajaya today to pay attention to the public when formulating national policies instead of resorting to knee-jerk reactions, as Malaysians fret over a decline in living standards and quality of life.

Ahead of the 11th Malaysian Plan, MIER said Malaysia urgently needs to adopt an approach that focuses more on enhancing the well-being of the public when managing economic and social development.

“Behavioural approach to policy, listening attentively to the voices of the rakyat, should be the new direction,” MIER said in its Malaysian Economic Outlook for the first quarter of 2015 presentation.

“Doing so will help avoid policies and measures that will result in deadweight losses and the society ending up worse-off than before,” said the report released in its 20th Corporate Economic Briefing.

“Welfare of the rakyat should be the key priority and this calls for greater social capital and strong collective action,” it added.

ED MierCountries that have adopted such an approach includes Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Nordic countries, MIER said. Pointing to the implementation of the goods and services tax (GST), MIER Executive Director Dr Zakariah Abdul Rashid said that Putrajaya must not be “too harsh” towards the public, apart from considering their feedback on the consumption tax.

MIER also warned against a lack of openness and transparency, gap in policy credibility, weak institutions, poor governance and low ethical and moral values, saying these attributes will affect the public perception and that of investors.

“There must be good signalling for market participants to react adequately, while ‘gradual approach’ and extensive consultations will surely help to avoid uncertainty and negative perceptions of stakeholders and rakyat as a whole,” said MIER.

MIER predicted that Malaysia will reach 5.0 per cent gross domestic product (GDP) growth this year, slightly above World Bank’s forecast of 4.7 per cent.

– See more at: http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/listen-to-the-people-economic-think-tank-urges-putrajaya#sthash.NOYWFy1m.dpuf

The Political Risks in Malaysia are growing


April 1, 2015

This piece is a serious commentary on Malaysia by The Financial Times, NOT an April Fool joke.–Din Merican

The Political Risks in Malaysia are growing

The FT View (March 31, 2015)

Its reputation as a thriving Muslim democracy is under threat

Rosmah and Najib 1mdb

Malaysia has long been regarded as one of Southeast Asia’s success stories. With a population of 30m, it is the region’s third-largest economy with a relatively well-educated population. It is a rare example of a moderate and democratic Muslim state, one where the Islamic majority lives in reasonable harmony with the nation’s Chinese and Indian communities. But Malaysia’s delicate political and ethnic balance is starting to unravel as the country risks sliding into authoritarianism. This is a worrying development at a time when economic clouds are also darkening.

Ever since the British departed in 1957, Malaysia has been ruled without interruption by the United Malays National Organisation, or UMNO, which represents the Muslim Malay majority. In recent years, UMNO has been increasingly challenged by Anwar Ibrahim, leader of the three-party Pakatan Rakyat coalition. Often viewed as a maverick and a flawed figure, he has nevertheless said he wants to reform Malaysia’s ossified and corrupt political system.

At the 2013 general election, the Pakatan opposition won more of the popular vote than the UMNO-led coalition. Thanks to anomalies in the way constituency boundaries are drawn, it gained only 40 per cent of seats in the national parliament. Still, Mr Anwar’s performance at the polls was strong enough to trigger deep concern within UMNO about his chances of winning the next election to be called by 2018.

In February, the opposition was dealt a crippling blow when Mr Anwar was imprisoned for five years by a court on charges of sodomy. The case appeared at the very least politically motivated. This has now been followed by a sweeping series of arrests of opposition politicians and journalists. Human rights groups say that in the past week more than 90 people have been detained — many under a British colonial-era law that criminalises speech that has a “seditious tendency”.

This crackdown on civil society is dangerous for two reasons. First, it risks polarising Malaysian society, making the delicate balance between the country’s communities harder to sustain. Najib Razak, the Prime Minister, is a reformist figure who has declared himself to be committed to political liberalisation. But he himself is under pressure from a rightwing flank within UMNO that wants the opposition marginalised and is resistant to reforms that could erode the commercial privileges enjoyed by the country’s Malay majority.

The second concern is that if the political tension grows it could damage Malaysia’s economy. Malaysia had a robust 2014 with real GDP growth at a solid six per cent, the second-highest performance in Southeast Asia. But the country is a significant net exporter of energy, making it vulnerable to the fall in oil prices. Foreign bond ownership in Malaysia is high at more than 40 per cent — and bondholders could become jittery if there is any further deterioration in the country’s economic and political outlook.

This is a highly uncertain period politically for Southeast Asia. Indonesia has just completed a presidential election which saw a peaceful transfer of power. But Thailand has moved to military rule and in Myanmar there is uncertainty over whether and how the ruling junta will share power. Even in the Philippines, the region’s star performer, it is hard to predict the course of politics after President Benigno Aquino’s term expires. It is against this background that Malaysia will be keenly watched. If it is to retain the commitment of international investors it needs to provide reassurance about its future political stability.

Lee Kuan Yew was sui generis


March 29, 2015

Lee Kuan Yew was sui generis

by Terence Netto@www.malaysiakini.com

Asia’s generation of independence-gaining leaders knew little or nothing of how to get the economies of their countries going.

Lee-Kuan-Yew India’s Jawarharlal Nehru, Indonesia’s Sukarno, and Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh succeeded in freeing their countries from the colonial powers, but their triumphs were Pyrrhic. The euphoria of independence turned out to as evanescent as morning dew, their countries falling away after gaining freedom, stymied either by the ethnic and religious hatreds that had long bedeviled them, or hobbled by the choice of growth-stifling economic systems, or worse, caught up as proxies in the Cold War rivalry between the West and the communist bloc.

Lee Kuan Yew and Singapore – the names are interchangeable as no founding leader has stamped his mark on his country like Lee did – avoided the fate of these countries and their larger-than-life progenitors.

From scratch in 1959 when Singapore became self-governing, Lee built up the city-state to become an an economic and technological cynosure. He did this through the practice of a capitalism that emphasised no corruption, hard work, meritocracy, low taxes and high savings. And he held the line on the utility of the English language for upward mobility.

The upshot was phenomenal: Singapore rose from an economy whose gross domestic product (GDP) was US$427 per capita in 1960 to US$55,000 in 2013. This increase is stupendous by any measure, more so considering Singapore is without natural resources save a good harbour.

Lee achieved this transformation via methods that scorned the Western view that democracy was the last word in human political development. He was harsh on opponents, jailing them without trial if not bankrupting them with libel suits, and his view of the press was that they should not presume to tell him how Singapore should be governed.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the historian Francis Fukuyama espoused the theory of the “end of history” owing to the triumph of “liberal democracy”. Fukuyama said that the natural wish of humans to be free from repression would eventuate in their choice of a liberal democratic system of governance.

Fukuyama saw that communism’s fall cleared the way for the flowering of a system that believed in limited government, respected individual rights, allowed for free and fair elections, and encouraged governance by informed consent of the governed.

That this theory does not enjoy traction in Confucian societies was suggested, first, by Park Chung-hee in South Korea and, then, by Lee Kuan Yew in Singapore, and, later still, by Deng Xiaoping in China.

A Preference for order over disorder

The reason why an authoritarianism that was not draconian fostered growth and order in these Confucian societies was because of the ethos inculcated by the ancient Chinese sage which instilled a preference for order over the disorder of uninhibited political competition, placed family and social obligations to the kin group above individual rights, and encouraged respect for authority if it was reasonably exercised.

In Confucian societies, a quasi-authoritarianism is no reason for resistance, provided there are opportunities for people to become rich, educated and industrious. Rights are secondary to obligations and order is valued more than individual fulfillment.

Lee Kuan Yew understood this ethos which was why he always maintained, in the face of criticism of his heavy-handedness, that he knew his society better than the critics of his methods. Implicit in Lee’s approach was his confidence that Singaporeans would  applaud his quasi-authoritarianism when they see its economic outcome: the transformation of a resource-bereft and vulnerable geographic crossroads into a world hub of transport and trade. Singapore’s GDP was US$1 billion in 1960; in 2013 it was US$298 billion.

SingaporeSingapore’s spectacular economic growth has made Lee’s advice on how to govern much sought after, especially among leaders of countries keen to transform their backward economies.

India has declared a day of national mourning and its Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, a devotee of the economic-growth-as-panacea school, will attend Lee’s funeral in the island-state today, surely a mark of his determination to emulate the Singaporean model of development.

Singapore’s phenomenal economic progress gave Lee the platform to advice even the big powers on matters of geopolitical and strategic interest, with the former US President Richard Nixon an admirer who wryly observed that the “engine was too big for the boat”, by which he meant Lee’s intelligence and ability ought to have had an impact on a widely beneficial scale than just the tiny island he led from obscurity to economic powerhouse.

This brings us to the inevitable question of the what-might-have-been had Lee and Singapore not been, in his words, “turfed out” of Malaysia in 1965. The whole question of Singapore’s merger and separation from its 1963 federation with Malaya and Borneo is so vexed a matter that even after a half-century the subject is suffused with emotion that hinders objective assessment.

It will require a historian of Olympian detachment to unpack the tangled strands and allow the judgmental chips to fall where they may. If history is the record of what one age finds worthy of note in another, that definition implies a changing standard which may not be as impressed with Lee’s achievements as they presently rate on history’s scales.

Late 20th century and early 21st century truisms about economic-growth-as-panacea may not hold for long as the idea of progress takes in a more comprehensive view of human beings finding fulfillment in civil society, unhindered by any idea that the state knows best.

If standards come to that, Lee Kuan Yew’s ratings will waver from its present lofty levels, but then he may contend that history’s scales are fairly bogus in any case and that what matters are the here and now.

READ THIS:

http://www.themalaymailonline.com/what-you-think/article/lee-kuan-yew-an-appreciation.-he-broke-the-model-danny-quah

http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/obituary-lee-kuan-yew-the-benevolent-dictator

Follow the Money


March 24, 2015

Follow the Money

by Tricia Yeoh@www.thesundaily.com

DG of Bank NegaraAT its annual report launch, Bank Negara Deputy Governor gave a relatively healthy assessment of the country’s economy. So glowing was the report, however, that several members of the audience felt compelled to ask his opinion of 1MDB, the proverbial elephant in the room.

He essentially responded by saying that “sovereigns” (meaning government-backed entities) are not monitored as closely as are “corporates” (meaning the private sector) in their respective issuance of bonds and similar financial instruments. This is presumably because a bond or debt obligation issued by a government authority is usually assumed as low-risk, given that they are backed by the taxing power of the said government.

What Bank Negara said was essentially correct, since its responsibility is limited to ensuring the stability of the Banking Sector. As long as 1MDB – which is a government entity, given it is wholly owned by the Finance Ministry – is able to pay back loans owed to local banks (like Maybank and RHB), then the Banking Sector is safe. But ay, there’s the rub.

As at March 2014, 1MDB’s accounts showed a whopping debt of RM41.9 billion. (Which is, by the way, just short of the entire 2015 budgetary allocation to the country’s development, totaling RM50.5 billion. It is also eight times more than what is allocated to safety and security in 2015, totalling RM4.9 billion).

Ultimately, if it is unable to pay off its multiple loans owed both locally and abroad, does it not mean that the government would have to cough up the sum? And this is already happening as events continue to unfold on a daily basis.

Most recently, Putrajaya confirmed RM950 million was given as a standby credit for 1MDB, which is basically when a fixed amount of credit is made available to the borrower as and when required for a given period of time. These are monies that could have been put to better use, surely.

Tengku Razaleigh HamzahWorse, frustration with the powers that be will surely grow if the additional RM5.6 billion revenues collected from the Goods and Services Tax (GST) that is about to be implemented are shown to be used for such unpalatable purposes. Just this week, former Finance Minister Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah said in Parliament that the people had the right to know if GST “benefited the country or (would be) used only to pay the interest to debtors and bondholders”.

In one of the many conversations I had recently on the “1MDB losses”, a friend reminded me of a joke that is hauntingly relevant. A woman invested RM100 into the bank, expecting her funds to be safe and secure. Upon finding out the money was gone, she screamed hysterically to the bank officer, “You’ve lost my money!” to which he politely replied, “Your money is not lost, ma’am. It’s just somewhere else.” Likewise, the question we ought to be asking ourselves is: Where did the money go?

That is something the Auditor-General’s office will have to answer as they dutifully scrutinise the accounts of the much talked-about entity over the next few weeks.

Even if some of these funds can be restored, the concern still remains: How should government finances remain sustainable over a long-term period? IDEAS, in a policy paper released this week makes some suggestions, pertaining to an existing but very little-heard of national trust fund called the Kumpulan Wang Amanah Negara (or KWAN).

The KWAN was set up in 1988 with the original intention of saving for the future, especially from our depleting national resources. However, its total wealth for all of its 26 years of existence comes up to only RM9 billion. This is a relatively meagre amount when compared with the Norwegian Global Pension Fund, which has more than double that amount despite having started later than the Malaysian KWAN. In fact, it only represents 1.5% of the total petroleum revenue accumulated over the last 26 years.

Although our dependence on the oil and gas sector has fallen slightly over the last few years, its revenues still contribute some one-third to our overall national income. Credit is due to the non-resource sectors (manufacturing and services), given their continual growth as a proportion of total GDP, which is encouraging.

But given the spendthrift tendencies of our government of late (our operational expenditure expanded on average 11% annually from 1971 to present, and more alarmingly by more than 20% in 2011), it is important to strengthen existing infrastructure.

For instance, we propose that the KWAN governance mechanism needs to be made much more robust in the way the fund is managed, how deposits and withdrawals are regulated, and finally, how it is accountable to taxpayers.

Some of the key disciplines of a well-governed fund (as outlined by the Natural Resource Governance Institute and the Columbia Centre on Sustainable Interest) are that it should have clear and well-enforced objectives, fiscal rules, investment rules, division between the authority and various managers, and finally have regular and extensive disclosure to the public whilst ensuring independent oversight bodies exist.

Many of these governance mechanisms do not exist for the KWAN. For instance, the deposit and withdrawal rules are too general and need to be more quantifiably specific. Other oversight agencies ought to be brought in; currently only the Finance Ministry and Bank Negara are involved – parliamentary committees should also be included as an additional measure.

Finally, its reports should be publicly downloadable online and a website should be dedicated to publish all relevant details of the fund.

It is not just 1MDB or Pembinaan PFI or KWAN that must be examined closely; all other state-owned enterprises and funds (and there are many) ought to be monitored with a fine-tooth comb. The adage is true: it really is your and my money. As taxpayers, we should demand nothing less.

Tricia Yeoh is the Chief Operating Officer of a local, independent think-tank. Comments: letters@thesundaily.com

After 30 years of Hun Sen, where is Cambodia


March 19, 2015

After 30 years of Hun Sen, where is Cambodia

Hun Sen2015 marks 30 years in power for Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, who became prime minister in January 1985 at only 33 years old. He has consolidated his power base through charismatic leadership, paternalism, coercion and a system of patronage.

There are mixed views on Hun Sen’s leadership. It is essential to understand the national context to conduct a well-balanced assessment of his achievements and shortcomings. Cambodia is a fragile country after nearly three decades of war and conflict. Social and political distrust, a potential source of political instability, remain deeply embedded in Cambodian political culture and society.

For Hun Sen, peace and security and socio-economic development occupy center stage in Cambodia’s domestic politics, with democracy and human rights coming in second.

The premier is one of the main architects of peace-building in Cambodia. His political career started with the Kampuchean United Front for National Salvation which, with the support of Vietnam, toppled the Khmer Rouge regime in January 1979.

At the end of the 1980s, as similar economic reforms were being pursued in Vietnam and Laos, Hun Sen chose to follow the free-market economic model. But Cambodia took a different political reform path from that of Laos and Vietnam after the 1991 Paris Peace Accords. Cambodia adopted a liberal, multi-party political system, incorporating the principles of democracy and human rights in its 1993 constitution.

Hun Sen has steered Cambodia towards peace and development, helping overcome the most difficult period in the country’s history, which included both the civil war and subsequent factional power struggles. In the late 1990s, he managed to dissolve the remaining Khmer Rouge forces and reintegrate them into the Cambodian Royal Armed Forces, marking the end of the civil war.

Pochentong International AirportPochentong International Airport, Phnom Penh

In the last two decades, Cambodia has enjoyed an average of 7.7 percent GDP growth. Cambodia is classified as a ‘high growth country’ by the World Bank. The poverty rate fell from 47.8 percent in 2007 to 18.9 per cent in 2012. But the development gap between urban and rural areas remains wide. In 2011, 91 percent of poor households were living in rural areas. Cambodia’s poor households are vulnerable to an array of shocks including natural disasters and water, food and energy security crises.

Hun Sen’s governance strategy revolves around three factors: political stability, development and promoting cultural identity. His ambition is to transform Cambodia into a middle-income country by 2030, and a high-income country by 2050.

Still, the prime minister’s leadership and legitimacy were critically challenged in the July 2013 general election when his Cambodian People Party (CPP) suffered a remarkable drop in popular support, losing 22 seats to the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP).

One of the reasons for falling support for the CPP is the chronic and rampant corruption within the government and the party. Corruption is the root cause of social injustice, human rights violations, the culture of impunity, the mismanagement of natural and state resources, widening income inequality, and the downgrading of social ethics and values.

Acknowledging these problems, Hun Sen set a comprehensive reform agenda after the 2013 elections. But concrete outcomes have yet to be seen. To fulfil the agenda and build his own legacy, Hun Sen must make major institutional changes. He must be innovative and consistent in fighting corruption and nepotism otherwise his reform policy will fail, further challenging his legitimacy and legacy.

Transformative and adaptive political leadership, effective and efficient bureaucracy, and popular support and participation are necessary if political and economic reforms are to succeed. Hun Sen’s government must further deepen the reform agenda by focusing on these three elements.

Hun Sen has, some say, adapted his leadership style too slowly to cope with Cambodia’s fast-changing social transformation. His authoritarian leadership is not popular, especially among young people. The majority of Cambodian youth aspire to change. At the party congress in February, CPP leaders added youth leaders to the Central Committee, resulting in 70 out of 545 members being under the age of 50, in a bid to gain support from Cambodia’s youth.

Hun Sen also takes a pragmatic approach towards foreign affairs. His core foreign policy objectives are to maintain national peace and security, further economic development, reduce poverty, and raise Cambodia’s image and prestige.

While he is pushing to diversify Cambodia’s strategic and economic partners, but there is currently still a tilt towards China. Economic and cultural ties define Cambodia–China relations. China is now Cambodia’s largest source of both foreign direct investment and development assistance.

Phnom PenhPhnom Penh Today

Cambodia has also engaged in promoting global peace and stability, sending more than 1,700 peacekeepers to different parts of the world under the UN framework and is actively involved in the global campaign to end landmines. It is taking a leading role in promoting the ‘responsibility to protect’ in Southeast Asia, and intends to build stronger partnerships with ASEAN and the UN to build the state’s capacity to protect its population from genocide and crimes against humanity, and from their incitement.

In the 30 years Hun Sen has been in power, Cambodia has made significant progress but key challenges remain.

Vannarith Chheang is lecturer of Asia Pacific Studies at the University of Leeds. This articles originally appeared n the East Asia Forum, a platform for analysis and research at the Crawford School of Public Policy at the Australian National University

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http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jan/14/hun-sen-cambodias-prime-minister-marks-30-years-of-hardline-rule

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