Cambodia’s Regal Authoritarianism

A new article has (finally) become available.

A Regal Authoritarian Turn in Cambodia” (DOI: 10.1080/00472336.2021.1974078) is by Astrid Norén-Nilsson of the Centre for East and South-East Asian Studies at Lund University in Sweden.

The abstract for the paper states:

Cambodia’s transition from competitive to hegemonic authoritarianism, begun with a crackdown in 2017 which saw the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party dissolved, and institutionalised in non-competitive parliamentary elections in 2018 in which long-incumbent Cambodian People’s Party won all seats, has been teeming with references to the monarchy. Whilst Prime Minister Hun Sen has long built a complex set of regal legitimations elevating him to or above kingship, these legitimations have both intensified and changed qualitatively with the transition to hegemonic authoritarianism. In the past, Hun Sen and his regime’s regal references served to re-work in his favour the power boundaries between him and the monarchy; now, such references are mobilised against the non-royalist political opposition – at the same time as there is a sitting king on the throne. This article investigates the meanings and messages attached to these interventions on kingship, and how their usefulness to the new authoritarian order sheds light on the path the regime is taking. It is argued that Hun Sen uses royal imagery to cohere an otherwise incoherent vision of himself as a popular revolutionary as well as king-like leader whose power needs no check, to project power and create new political possibilities.


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