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Criticism, But Democratic Progress Too: Expert

With the government facing recent criticism over its democracy development, the head of the Khmer Institute for Democracy, Hang Chhaya, said Monday the government was making some progress.

“I say it is progressing, because the government has established a decentralization system to offer more power to local authorities,” he said, as guest on “Hello VOA.” “This is a good deal to solve the issue and develop democracy in Cambodia.”

Meanwhile, he said, the multilateral system of government put in place by Untac in the 1990s has proceeded through four terms of government.

Still, Cambodia faces problems that need solving, he said. Poverty, for example, has not improved compared to other countries.

Hang Chhaya’s remarks follow a period in which the government has faced calls from international and local groups to improve its democracy record, with one opposition journalist in jail, a second folding his paper to avoid jail and two opposition parliamentarians facing government defamation suits.

The leading opposition, the Sam Rainsy Party, announced this week it would change its strategy, moving away from protests on the streets and cases in the courts to contest the ruling party.

“It’s good to find some way so that it’s not stuck,” Hang Chhaya said Monday.

The Khmer Institute for Democracy was now trying to provide more advocacy and education to people to help them understand democratic principles, with outreach to rural and urban populations.