Cambodia 2012

Total score

43.65 change: 29.92

Quick facts

  • 14.95 million
Population growth:
  • 1.69 %
Unemployement rate:
  • 3.5 %
  • 33.89 billion $
GDP growth rate:
  • 6.1 %
GDP per capita:
  • 2200 $

Score and comments

Political Freedom
Free and Fair Elections

Cambodia cannot be considered an electoral democracy although elections are held fairly regularly. Its electoral campaigning and process are usually subject to coercion, violence and intimidation. During the 2008 legislative elections, some of the irregularities were allegedly perpetrated by the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), which dominates the country’s political scene. Evidence suggests that the cpp successfully bought and/or intimidated competitors. Sam Rainsy, Cambodia’s most prominent opposition party leader, returned to exile in 2010, just in time to escape his conviction for statements he made earlier about the Cambodian government ceding territory to Vietnam. In two court trials, he was convicted in absentia to a total of 12 years in prison

on charges of misinforming the public and manipulating documents. If these judgements are not revoked, he will not be able to stand in the next national elections scheduled to be held in July 2013. Given the above, political pluralism is only very limited in Cambodia. By means of repression and threat, the CPP aims to establish a quasi one-party system. Moreover, economic growth during the last decade has helped the cpp to garner increased public support for Prime Minister Hun Sen.

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Absence of Unconstitutional Veto Players

The Cambodian political system does not allow any room for potential veto-players. On the positive side, civilian control over military and security forces has been established. The Cambodian constitution, widely considered to be a very liberal one, establishes a system of checks and balances. But in practice the CPP is in firm control of the country. This has to a certain extent subverted the division of powers. In consequence, Cambodia scores poorly in this section even though there are basically no veto players in a traditional sense.

Freedom of Press

The Cambodian government allows limited freedom of speech. For Cambodians, the major source of information are national broadcasting stations, with only about 10% of the population having access to print media. The number of journalists tried in libel and defamation charges has been continuously on the rise in the past few years. In September 2012, Mam Sonando, one of Cambodia‘s most prominent human rights defenders and radio broadcasters, was sentenced to 20 years in jail for "inciting rebellion against the government“. (He had participated in a protest against forced evictions.) Moreover, journalists often face threats and physical assaults. As a result, they often resort to self-censorship. However, satellite-dishes are allowed, enabling some to receive

uncensored information from abroad. The Internet is generally free from governmental control, but as of now only a fraction of the population has access to it.

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Rule of Law
Independence of the Judiciary

Although the Constitution of Cambodia nominally provides for judicial independence and emphasises that the legislative and executive branches shall not have judicial power, due to an absence of practical safeguards, the judiciary remains weak and the courts continue to operate as an arm of the CPP. The country suffers a severe shortage of legal professionals, and its judges by and large lack adequate training, making them more vulnerable to political interference.


Abuse of power by government officials for personal gain is prevalent in Cambodia. While the country has experienced economic growth in recent years due to increased investment in the textile manufacturing, construction, agriculture and tourism, those in power are presented with opportunities for wealth accumulation from these enterprises. Efforts by international donors to introduce tough anti-corruption measures have been shunned by the government. The severity of this problem is well reflected in Transparency International’s 2011 Corruption Perceptions Index, where Cambodia was ranked at 164th place out of 183 surveyed countries.

Protection of Human Rights

That Cambodia abolished the death penalty for all crimes two decades ago deserves merit. However, Cambodia’s human rights record in all other respects remains questionable. The CPP continues to restrict free speech, intimidate journalists and dissenters by means of lawsuits and criminal prosecution. Peaceful protests by workers, farmers, and land owners are usually dispersed, often enough by violent means. In 2011, the Cambodian government pressed forward a law that would allow it to shut down ngos, community-based civic groups, informal associations and grassroots networks on arbitrary grounds. Many versions of the draft have been presented to the public to date. If enacted, the law will have adverse impacts on the growth and activities of both the civil society and the

media, as the law may be used to force a few critical voices in the country into silence. Meanwhile, Cambodian women continue to face economic and social discrimination. They lag behind men in education and are vulnerable to domestic violence. Poor women and girls are often trafficked inside and outside of the country for prostitution, making it one of Asia’s major trafficking hubs.

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Economic Freedom
Security of Property Rights

Property rights are not effectively protected. Land owners can be expropriated by government agencies if it is in public interest (which is often rather broadly defined). Land grabbing and forced evictions happen at an alarming rate and often leave whole communities homeless. Perpetrators are rarely prosecuted. A consultation project with the World Bank was meant to find a solution to this problem, but the Cambodian government decided to withdraw in 2010.

The protection of intellectual property rights is equally lacklustre. Counterfeit goods such as car parts, electronic equipment, pharmaceuticals and apparel are readily available. Relevant laws are rarely enforced.

Size of Government: Expenditures, Taxes, and Enterprises

Government spending (which includes consumption and transfer payments) equals 18.3% of the GDP. Despite increased spending during the past year, Cambodia manages to maintain a balanced budget.

Cambodia’s income and corporate tax rates are set at 20%. Other taxes include value added tax, excise tax and accommodation tax. Overall tax revenue accounts for about 8% of the GDP.

Regulation of Credit, Labour, and Business

As of 2011 (the latest data available), 32 commercial banks operated in Cambodia. Additional financial services are offered by 8 specialised banks and 29 micro-finance institutions. A new regulation which allows credit bureaus to gather and swap credit reports has strengthened Cambodia’s credit information system. Starting, running and closing a business are subject to a number of regulations. In its 2012 Doing Business report, the World Bank ranked Cambodia at the 138th position out of 183 countries. Starting a business takes 9 procedures and 85 days. Getting a license is a time-consuming process of 21 procedures, which on average take a whopping 652 days. Inflexible and ineffectively enforced labour regulations thwart job creation and productivity growth. The non-salary

cost of an employee is low, but regulations regarding work hours are rigid.

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Freedom to Trade Internationally

The weighted average tariff rate stands at 8.7%. Cambodia’s trade regime has undergone two decades of gradual trade policy liberalisation. An ASEAN member-country, Cambodia also joined the ASEAN Free Trade Zone which has led it to reduce tariffs on imports from other member countries. A number of non-tariff trade barriers have been removed, but some import bans and restrictions, non-automatic import licensing, a weak intellectual property rights protection system and an inconsistent customs administration still pose obstacles to international trade.

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