The crackdown on the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) that began in 2017 marks the abandonment of even the veneer of democracy in Cambodia. While previous work has identified China's support for the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) and the electoral threat posed by the CNRP's popularity as major factors explaining the turn towards a more assertive authoritarianism, this article highlights the importance of changes within the CPP to understand the speed and extent of political closure in the country. It re-examines Hun Sen's more than three decades of rule to argue that, contrary to existing interpretations, he succeeded in fully consolidating personal control of the regime only after the death of CPP President Chea Sim in 2015 and the consequent collapse of the long-standing factional divide in the party. This final removal of internal constraints on Hun Sen's personal rule implies that a compromise solution to the crackdown is unlikely, and that political change through institutional channels in Cambodia is now becoming an increasingly remote possibility.


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pp. 173-195
Launched on MUSE
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