Why Cambodia Is Making Fantastical Allegations Against Ted Cruz of Inciting Revolution

With China on the rise and the world trending towards authoritarianism, it perhaps comes as no surprise that the façade of democracy in Cambodia is crumbling. What may raise eyebrows to many stateside is the accusation that America — and Ted Cruz specifically — attempted to organize a revolution to oust 33-year incumbent Prime Minister Hun Sen.Sen. Cruz may wear the fantastical allegations as a badge of honor, and Texans can feel proud that their senator's condemnations of an increasingly authoritarian regime have not gone unnoticed. However, U.S. action has so far had little effect other than to ruffle feathers. American officials promise more measures are coming, but some experts warn Cambodians will have work domestically to achieve true change.The insidious pro-government media outlet Fresh News turned its sights on Cruz and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., accusing them in an open letter and rudimentary memes of attempting to initiate revolution. "You are trying to harm our present peace and development, citing human rights and democracy," the letter states, adding, "the love you are showing us is vicious."The slide to authoritarianism in Cambodia began, as it often does, with rhetoric. Government officials including Hun Sen lobbed criticisms at the U.S. about domestic issues ranging from racial tensions to gun violence. Hun Sen demanded that then president-elect Donald Trump forgive a $506 million debt to the U.S. accrued by Cambodia during the Vietnam War era. Trump never responded, possibly completely unaware of the request. At the time, analysts believed Hun Sen was trying to undermine America's credibility as a champion of human rights and democracy in anticipation of criticism about the fairness of upcoming Cambodian elections.Then, in January 2017, Cambodia canceled its annual joint military exercises with the U.S., ending a seven-year tradition. Shortly after, the government minted a shiny, new military event with China — the Golden Dragon. For this too, observers had a plausible explanation. Western aid often came with cumbersome human rights requirements, requirements that Hun Sen was loath to satisfy. China, on the other hand, was happy to welcome Cambodia with open arms, democracy or no.  Continue reading...

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