Buddhism and the Making of Democracy in Cambodia
The purpose of this report was to assist the Cambodian Buddhist Council in Cambodia to better understand the role of Buddhism in making democracy work in Cambodia after many attempts to restore and maintain democracy since 1936 have been failed. In Part 1 the paper will focus on the history democratic movement in Cambodia and why the movement did not work well in the standpoint of political culture relating to Buddhism. Part 2 will focus on the strategic reform policy to help improve the situation of democratization which is being under threats. The paper also covers recommendations to overcome some problems that might become obstacles during the reform.
It can be stated that Cambodian democratic movement started as earlier as 1936 along with the struggle for independence from French colonization. In 1946 two political parties, the Democratic Party and the Liberal Party, were formed to hold elections for a Consultative Assembly, and National Assembly in 1951. However, the National Assembly was dissolved by King Sihanouk in 1953 and martial law was imposed. In 1955 King Sihanouk announced his abdication in favor of his father in order to form his own political party (Popular Socialist Community). Sihanouk ruled the country as head of state and his party defeated other parties in the parliament until 1970 when he was deposed by General Lon Nol. The Khmer Republic replaced the Kingdom of Cambodia, and the constitution was headed for a presidential system in favor of the United States. Civil war began between the Republic and the Khmer Rouge and ended in 1975 when General Lon Nol was exiled to the U.S. The Communist Khmer Rouge ruled the country between 1975-1979 and caused nearly two million deaths. From 1975 onwards, the democracy movement was dead until 1993 when all conflicting factions agreed to hold election under the supervision of the United Nations. Democracy movement restarted. However, a coup d’état in July 1997 has put democracy in Cambodia in risk again. Download