Yesterday (June 28th) marked the 69th Birthday of the ruling Cambodian Peoples Party (CPP), led by strongman Hun Sen and even control all 125 seats in the Cambodian Assembly. So, with such a celebration, what is the history of the Cambodian People’s Party?
The CPP was originally founded in 1951 as the Kampuchean People’s Revolutionary Party (Khmer: គណបក្សប្រជាជនបដិវត្តន៍កម្ពុជា, KPRP). Now anyone with even a vague understanding of Cambodian history and politics will be aware that a communist government did indeed take power in 1975 in Cambodia, the Khmer Rouge.
The CPP has largely ignored this part of history and the fact that the majority of their leaders were, in fact, part of the Khmer Rouge movement.
In 1979 rebel Khmer Rouge leaders exiled communists in Vietnam, and indeed the Vietnamese invaded Democratic Kampuchea and initiated the Peoples Republic of Kampuchea. Ironically this ended up with a pro-Soviet communist Cambodia pitted against the pro-China Khmer Rouge rebels.
After taking power, the reformed Kampuchean Peoples Revolutionary Party (KPRP) basically just completely retconned their history and started again. Oh, the power you get to wield when you are a one-party state.
Faced with a civil war with the internationally-backed Khmer Rouge and finding that the locals were a bit wary of stuff like collectivization after their time being ruled by Pol Pot, the party began to economically liberalise in the mid ’80s.
By 1991 the party had changed its name to the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) dropped all references to socialism, and then, under Hun Sen prepared themselves for the 1993 elections.
The CPP lost the 1993 elections, but Hen Sen had no intention of giving away power that easily. After brokering a deal, he became one of 2 Prime-Minsters, officially at least the second in importance after Norodom Ranariddh until a 1997 coup toppled the latter.
Since 1997 opposition has been slowly driven away via fraudulent elections, control of the media and even the imprisoning of opposition politicians. By the last election, the CPP managed to win 125 of 125 seats.
We’d love to say we cannot guess what is coming next, but Khmer media has been busy deifying Hun Sen’s son Hun Manet, a 4-star general to become his successor.
The party celebrated the golden 69 at their brand new Cambodia People’s Party headquarters, a huge building in downtown Phnom Penh that cost $40 million dollars of definitely members money and not graft, or corruption.