from Asia Unbound

Is Cambodia’s King a Prisoner in his Castle?

May 31, 2011

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Cambodia’s King Norodom Sihamoni greets officials on the first day of the annual water festival along the Tonle Sap river in Phnom Penh November 20, 2010.
Cambodia's King Norodom Sihamoni greets officials on the first day of the annual water festival along the Tonle Sap river in Phnom Penh November 20, 2010. (Chor Sokunthea/Courtesy Reuters)

The Associated Press this week has a fascinating article about King Norodom Sihamoni of Cambodia, the country’s head of state and one of the few remaining Buddhist monarchs. It alleges that, as Prime Minister Hun Sen has centralized all authority around himself, Sihamoni has become little more than a prisoner in his own palace, able to exert no influence and longing to return to the Czech Republic, where he spent much of his life.

Although the outlines of Hun Sen’s growing authoritarianism are by now well known--check out the country reports on Cambodia by Freedom House or Human Rights Watch--this piece offers a wealth of detail on how Hun Sen, a rugged survivor of decades of politics, has managed to sideline basically the only other powerful institution left in Cambodia.

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