Political Instability in Cambodia Over Past 20 Years

The political instability in Cambodia over the last twenty years can be attributed mainly to multi party politics that was introduced in the early 90s which has since brought about power struggles in the country. Cambodia had been under monarchy rule until the seventies when the Khmer Rouge, who were eventually responsible for starting a war with the stronger Vietnam in 1977, took over. Vietnam invaded Cambodia and backed a new government largely composed of Khmer Rouge defectors but in fighting within various factions continued and Vietnam withdrew in 1989 (Jihyeon).

With the help of the United Nations, internal conflict within Cambodia was resolved with a peace accord (Paris Peace Agreement of 1991) whereby it was resolved that a UN protectorate( the UN Transitional Authority in Cambodia -UNTAC) was to help rule Cambodia until national elections were held in 1993. The elections were held and managed by the UNTAC but the Cambodia People’s Party (CPP) which was in power, refused to accept that it had lost its majority status, forcing intervention by Prince Sihanouk to constitute a national coalition government. A stable government never ensued due to power struggles between the two main rival parties – CCP and FUNCINPEC and when fighting broke out between supporters of the two parties the coalition government eventually came to an end in 1997.

When the PPA 1991 was being signed, it was assumed that all parties would accept the results and that a democratic regime would be possible. When the post election crisis of 1993 led to a power sharing government, it brought more instability because the Cambodians as a people had no democratic tradition and therefore could not work out the problems that arose.

The country is making slow steps towards democracy as it has since held multi party National Assembly elections every five years since 1993. These elections however still do not meet international standards and are usually marred by bitter complaints from the losing parties. “No democracy is perfect….. In a sense all democracies are in transition. Cambodia is perhaps at the beginning of the continuum from non-democracy to constitutional pluralism”. (Roberts 32).

The economy of Cambodia continues to improve despite the political instability that it has faced over the last twenty years. When Vietnam withdrew from Cambodia in 1989, its economy changed from socialism to the free market system, and apart from a short slow down in its growth between 1997 and 1998 caused by civil violence and political infighting, it has continued to steadily rise in the last decade.

Works Cited

David W. Roberts. “Political Transition in Cambodia, 1991-99: Power, Elitism, and Democracy.” Macmillan. 2001. 23-54

Jeong, Jihyeon. “North Korea and China: the Politics of Trade and Investment” Paperpresented at the annual meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association 67th Annual National Conference, The Palmer House Hilton, Chicago, IL, 2009. Web.

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