WASHINGTON DC - Cambodia’s new government will face a host of challenges brought on by the new political climate, a leading analyst says.
Ok Serei Sopheak, a governance specialist, told VOA Khmer on Monday that the ruling Cambodian People’s Party is now facing a situation that demands reform, with the opposition gaining more popularity.
That will mean making some changes that were promised by the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party in the run-up to the election, he told “Hello VOA.” That will likely include pay raises for civil servants, as well as increased attention to public demands, he said.
“The intention of this government is to give a maximum pay raise, which I think will be up to at least half of what the Cambodia National Rescue Party has promised,” he said.
The Rescue Party campaigned against the government’s seeming inability to foster economic growth, and it promised to raise the pay of civil servants to at least $250 a month, while raising wages for garment factory workers to $150 per month.
These challenges and others await the new government, formed despite an opposition boycott by the CPP last month, including the reform of some laws, managing the economy and controlling inflation, Ok Serei Sopheak said.
“If the government cannot make it up to 50 percent of what the opposition promised, I think the public will be disappointed,” he said.
The new government will also face questions from the public, he said. “Government representatives do not want to be questioned by the people, especially on governance,” he said.
This could lead to “regular protests” from citizens if they feel their demands are not properly met, he said. “The path is getting narrower for the ruling party.”
Another challenge awaiting the new government is judicial reform, with the courts currently seen as favoring the rich and powerful, he said.
“The judicial system is hard to reform,” he said.
Meanwhile, the newly established government has seen a wave of promotions, with officials close to Prime Minister Hun Sen moved to key ministries, including the promotion of longterm adviser Prak Sokhon to Minister of Posts and Telecommunications.
This raises the fear of tighter restrictions for online communications, through social media sites like Facebook, which has emerged as a main forum for the opposition.
“The Ministry of Telecommunications is very crucial,” Ok Serei Sopheak said. “If it is used positively, the Cambodian People’s Party and the government will benefit a lot, but if there is any attempt to make it narrower, by limiting [public] access and freedoms, it will be a big disaster for our society, and especially the Cambodian People’s Party. They will be under a lot of pressure on this.”