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Dr Milton Osborne
After the turmoil of 1997 and the political standoff that followed the elections of July 1998, Cambodia in 1999 experienced a year of remarkable stability. The extent to which this stability was marked by an improvement in the lot of the general population continues to be a matter for debate, but there is no argument against the proposition that, at the level of national politics, Prime Minister Hun Sen's dominance has been clearly established. This does not mean that the country's many problems have been solved as it struggles to emerge from its mendicant economic status. There is still uncertainty about how, if ever, trials of former Khmer Rouge leaders might be held. And, far too often omitted for their bearing on politics, major environmental issues pose challenges to the government. In this far from exhaustive catalogue mention should also be made of pervasive corruption, endemic criminality and an unchecked HIV/AIDS epidemic.
Prince Ranariddh's acceptance of the coalition arrangements brokered by King Sihanouk in November of last year has meant that he has ceased to play any major part in Cambodia's politics and his FUNCINPEC colleagues have either accepted that cooperation with Hun Sen's CPP was preferable to confrontation or, in a number of cases, have simply left Cambodia to live abroad. Sam Rainsy continues to act as Cambodia's most active critic of the Hun Sen administration, but his effectiveness has been limited by the small number of his supporters in the assembly and his tendency to spend much of his time out of the country. In short, nothing that has occurred during 1999 leads to the conclusion that there is likely to be any sudden change to the dominance that Hun Sen has achieved. Rather, observers are now asking if that dominance can be translated into the eventual emergence of a more equitable and less corrupt society.
There are signs of improvement on the economic front, with a rise in the projected growth for the year from the previous annual figure of 1 per cent to 4 per cent and a drop in the rate of inflation from about 12 per cent to 6 per cent. Some steps have been made towards controlling illegal logging, but it remains a major concern. The government is banking on an upsurge in tourism as a result of political stability to boost much needed receipts of foreign exchange.
WATCHPOINT: The unlikely emergence of an intra-party challenge to Hun Sen.
About our company:
AFG Venture Group is an Asia and Australia based corporate advisory and consulting firm with over 20 years experience in creating alliances, relationships and transactions in Australia, South East Asia and India; including a 15 year history of corporate and equities advisory in Australia, undertaking merger, acquisition, divestment, fund raising and consulting for private and public companies.
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