Fight For Grassroots Democracy In Cambodia Sidelines U.S. | 10/11/2017 | Staff
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BATTAMBANG, Cambodia (Reuters) – Sin Rozeth’s attempts to show the benefits of grassroots democracy to some of the poorest people in the Cambodian city of Battambang are in peril.

The 30-year-old daughter of a vegetable seller became the head of Ochar commune, the equivalent of local council leader, in elections in June. Her victory was part of an “all politics is local” strategy that helped the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) win 40 percent of the 1,646 local seats at stake. Previously it had just 2 percent.

Government - Khmer - Rouge - Commander - Hun

But the authoritarian government of former Khmer Rouge commander Hun Sen is now cracking down at every level on a party that had shown it might beat him at elections due next July. The longest-serving prime minister in the world accuses the CNRP of doing the bidding of the United States.

Hun Sen’s government has arrested CNRP leader Kem Sokha on treason charges and taken steps to have the party dissolved altogether. Once vocal rights groups have also been silenced and media critical of the ruling party have been repressed.

Sin - Rozeth - Letters - City - Authorities

For Sin Rozeth, it has meant warning letters from city and provincial authorities threatening to remove her.

Now voters are showing signs of discouragement in Ochar, a community of 18,000 where Battambang spills into rice fields and dwellings patched from metal sheet and wood sit alongside low-rise cinderblock homes.

Voters - Commune - Year - Elections

Few new voters in the commune have registered ahead of next year’s national elections, she said.

It is the same picture across Cambodia. The electoral commission estimated 1.6 million people needed to register – either because they had come of age or had been missed before – and barely a quarter have done so ahead of a Nov. 9 deadline.

Stake - Democracy - Donors - Billions - Dollars

At stake is the shaky democracy that Western donors spent billions of dollars trying to build after the genocide of the...
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