Publication in Economics, Politics and Public Policy in East Asia and the Pacific

Cambodia’s foreign policy post-COVID-19

A woman walks outside the Royal Palace which has being closed for visitors as precaution against the coronavirus outbreak in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, 19 March 2020 (Photo: Reuters/Cindy Liu).

Author: Kimkong Heng, Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace

The COVID-19 pandemic is wreaking havoc on the global economy, affecting the lives of millions, and increasing uncertainty of a new Cold War between the United States and China. Cambodia, like a few other countries in Southeast Asia, appears to have been fortunate in succeeding to contain the spread of the virus. But its economy is faltering, if not failing. Read more…

Political crackdowns follow Cambodia’s COVID-19 lockdown

An activist is detained by police during a protest where activist groups urged the government to release and drop charges against a union leader Rong Chhun who was arrested last week in Phnom Penh, Cambodia 3 August, 2020 (Photo: Reuters/Lach).

Author: Sorpong Peou, Ryerson University and Emma-Jane Ni, McGill University

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Cambodia is enjoying considerable success compared to its Southeast Asian neighbours despite its relatively poor healthcare system — recording just 240 cases and no deaths by early August. While critics argue that these remarkably low numbers are due to underreporting, the government’s restriction measures for public safety have genuinely succeeded in containing the pandemic. Its crackdowns on the opposition, on the other hand, remain problematic.

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Cambodia’s COVID-19 success and economic challenges

Employees work at a factory supplier of the H&M brand in Kandal province, Cambodia, 12 December 2018 (Photo: Reuters/Samrang Pring).

Author: Kimkong Heng, University of Queensland

Unlike Europe, North America and recently Russia, Southeast Asia does not seem to have been hit as hard by the COVID-19 pandemic in terms of total deaths and confirmed cases. Indonesia, the Philippines and Malaysia are the worst affected countries in the region, but Vietnam, Cambodia and previously Singapore, have managed to contain the spread of COVID-19.

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COVID-19 threatens democracy in Southeast Asia

A soldier wearing a face mask holds on his weapon as he guards an empty street following the lockdown imposed to contain the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Manila, Philippines, 25 April 2020 (Photo:Reuters/Eloisa Lopez).

Author: Murray Hiebert, Bower Group Asia

COVID-19 has been tough on the health and economies of Southeast Asia, but the region’s fledgling quasi-democracies are also under threat. Efforts to control the virus are giving authoritarian rulers the perfect cover to adopt draconian levers to rein in their opponents and critics. Read more…

Is ASEAN’s COVID-19 response leaving migrant workers behind?

Firefighters spray disinfectant on a street during the movement control order due to the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia 31 March, 2020 (Photo: Reuters/Teng).

Author: M Niaz Asadullah, University of Malaya

Many ASEAN nations saw a sharp decline in the number of coronavirus fatalities after more than a month in lockdown. New infections in Thailand dropped to single-digit figures and Vietnam has already reopened its economy. The Philippines and Malaysia have conditionally permitted most sectors to resume business.

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The COVID-19 pandemic pulls at the seams of Southeast Asia

A worker cleans a plastic barrier after customers had lunch at the Penguin Eat Shabu hotpot restaurant that reopened after the easing of restrictions with the implementation of a plastic barrier and social distancing measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Bangkok, Thailand, 8 May, 2020 (Photo:Reuters/Athit Perawongmetha).

Author: Hunter Marston, ANU

The worst of the COVID-19 pandemic may be yet to come for many Southeast Asian countries, though some, such as Vietnam, have seen relative success in containing the virus. Read more…

Cambodia’s political and economic response to COVID-19

KADAL, CAMBODIA- Foundations delivered more than 100 aid packages including rice, face masks and cash to Vietnamese-Cambodian families affected by COVID-19 in Kadal province, Cambodia, 16 April 2020 (Reuters via Nguyn V Hùng/VNA/ Latin America News Agency).

Author: Kimlong Chheng, Asian Vision Institute

The COVID-19 pandemic is a crisis like no other. It has disrupted social and economic activities worldwide — causing a global recession and government defaults among developing nations. Countries in Southeast Asia are being severely impacted. In Cambodia, when the first confirmed case of COVID-19 was reported in late January, the disease became a major social, political and economic risk. As of 8 May, there have been 122 reported cases. The daily infection count has slowed since the beginning of April. It appears that the curve has flattened. But is it for good? Read more…

China’s post-COVID-19 woes to flow through the Mekong

Checking body temperatures for people at a station for COVID-19 prevention and control in Tu Ky district, the northern province of Hai Duong on 5 April, 2020.

Author: Heidi Dahles, Griffith University

As China shows signs of recovery from the COVID-19 outbreak, speculations abound about what a post-COVID-19 future will look like. Amid the cacophony of voices, consensus is gathering that global power balances will shift. What this shift might entail is fiercely debated. Some see China rising to global leadership and offering resources and experience to those currently battling the pandemic. Others suspect that China is engaging in a sinister campaign to push other countries further into dependency. Read more…

Cambodia holds China close despite coronavirus

Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen welcomes crews of MS Westerdam, a cruise ship that spent two weeks at sea after being turned away by five countries over fears that someone aboard might have the coronavirus, as it docks in Sihanoukville, Cambodia, 14 February 2020 (Photo: Reuters/Soe Zeya Tun).

Authors: Christopher Primiano, KIMEP University and Sovinda Po, Griffith University

The MS Westerdam cruise ship — with 1455 passengers and 802 crew — was refused entry at five successive ports in Thailand, Taiwan, Japan, the Philippines and Guam for fears its passengers were infected with the coronavirus after departing its stop in Hong Kong at the start of the outbreak. That changed on 13 February when Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen welcomed the cruise ship to dock in Sihanoukville. Hun Sen’s handling of this case demonstrates Cambodia’s unique approach to managing relations with China. Read more…

Coronavirus’ economic impact in East and Southeast Asia

Pedestrians wearing masks amid the rise in confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus disease of COVID-19, make their way at a shopping district in Daegu, South Korea, 4 March 2020 (Reuters/Kim Kyung-Hoon).

Author: Anne Oeking, AMRO

As the number of coronavirus cases continues to rise around the world, there are deep concerns over the potential economic impact of the virus. The virus originated in China, and given the size of China’s economy, a slowdown there from the COVID-19 outbreak will spill over to the rest of the ASEAN+3 region. The ASEAN+3 Macroeconomic Research Office (AMRO) estimates that the COVID-19 epidemic could deduct as much as half a percentage point from the economic growth of some regional economies in 2020. Read more…

Cambodia’s year of political limbo

Author: Astrid Noren-Nilsson, Lund University

Cambodian politics in 2019 was characterised by tension and uncertainty. A contentious election in July 2018 in which the ruling Cambodian People’s Party faced no serious competition has been followed by a progressive habituation to a de facto one-party system. But a ‘new normal’ has yet to settle in. Read more…

Cambodia’s economy in the post-EBA era

Author: Pheakdey Heng, Enrich Institute

It has been yet another impressive year for Cambodia’s economy. Thanks to continued strength in traditional sectors such as garments, tourism, trade and construction, Cambodia’s GDP grew 7 per cent in 2019 — the highest growth in the ASEAN region according to the IMF. Read more…

Making US–Cambodia relations great again

Leader of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) Kem Sokha (R) speaks to media as U.S Ambassador to Cambodia Patrick Murphy look on after a meeting in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, 11 November 2019 (Photo: Reuters/Samrang Pring).

Author: Chansambath Bong, Kansas State University

Since the new US Ambassador to Cambodia W Patrick Murphy presented his credentials to Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni on 19 October 2019, a number of developments have unfolded that indicate a potential diplomatic rapprochement between the two countries. Ambassador Murphy met with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on 23 October and, two days later, Hun Sen advised cabinet officials to reinvigorate ties with Washington.

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Cambodia’s energy security woes

An electrician prepares electrical wires along a street in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, 23 April 2018 (Photo: Reuters/Samrang Pring).

Author: Han Phoumin, ERIA

Economic growth in Cambodia is constrained by a lack of appropriate policy for electricity access and energy security. Only 50 per cent of Cambodia’s population had electricity access in 2016. Remarkably, by 2019, the number of households connected to grid electricity grew to almost 80 per cent. The challenge, however, remains for rural areas where certain remote areas have almost no electricity.

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China’s hegemonic choice in the Mekong region

A Chinese boat with a team of geologists surveys the Mekong River, at the border between Laos and Thailand, 23 April 2017 (Photo: Reuters/Jorge Silva).

Author: Sebastian Biba, Goethe University Frankfurt

If you are the world’s second-largest power, what do you dream about? How do you go about making this dream come true? Read more…