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Cambodia: Cambodian People’s Party Hold Meeting By Carlyle A. Thayer

C3S Paper No. 0020/ 2015

The Cambodian People’s Party is holding a special meeting this weekend. We request your assessment of the following issues:

Q1. Do you have any insight/predictions as to what could occur? We have heard from sources that committee changes could be on the cards, especialy some that might bring more youth into the central and even standing committee. Would this make sense to you? How would you characterise the current standing committee in terms of age and experience?

ANSWER: The current Standing Committee, also referred to as the Permanent Committee or even Politburo, is an oversized body. The general rule of thumb is that a party leadership committee should be able to sit comfortably around a conference table. The committee comprises long-standing Kampuchean People’s Revolutionary Party/Cambodian People’s Party (KPRP/CPP) stalwarts. The large size indicates that this body meets two requirements. First, it includes supporters of Hun Sen, those in the party, military, police, government and National Assembly, who are essential to his power base. Second, it includes enough factional representation to ensure stability within the CPP. The current CPP meeting should witness an increase in membership and perhaps some retirements (in line with the Cabinet reshuffle last year). Hun Sen will want to put in place party officials who are loyal to him and who will work hard to ensure CPP success at forthcoming elections in two and three years’ time. The addition of younger members is a relative term. It is clear, however, that the CPP needs to introduce a process of generational change lest it suffer from an ageing leadership and abrupt transition in the future. A process of generational change will give encouragement for those in their 40s that there is a career path open to them.

Q2. We have heard that possibly Hun Manet might be appointed. What do you think of that idea?

ANSWER: Hun Manet’s possible elevation to the top leadership body is a sign that Hun Sen intends to stay in power using family and patronage networks to cement his position. Hun Manet’s promotion will send a message to other CPP members to stay in line.

Q3. Do you think we could be in for any surprises or would it be highly controlled from the top and already pre-determined?

ANSWER: Hun Sen and his inner circle will control the process of leadership selection. Hun Sen is pragmatic. He will reassure his supporters but will seek an equilibrium on the Standing Committee by promoting loyalists and co-opting others to keep them in line.

Q4. In terms of policy and political platform would you expect any big changes given the importance of the next election and the fact that the CPP has said this is essential in setting up for it?

ANSWER: The CPP will portray itself as the promoter of reforms and defender of the “little person”. There should be an emphasis on better governance, anti-corruption, protection against land grabbing, accountability when deadly force is used, and a “new pragmatism” in working with existing political parties such as FUNCINPEC as well as encouraging the formation of minor parties to contest the forthcoming elections. Given public statements that this current meeting will focus on the 2017 and 2018 elections, new policy directions will be aimed at correcting deficits that led to a drop in voter support in 2013. Suggested citation: Carlyle A. Thayer, “Cambodia: Cambodian People’s Party Hold Meeting,”

(Article reprinted with the permission of the author Carlyle A. Thayer, Emeritus Professor,The University of New South Wales at the Australian Defence Force Academy, Canberra email:

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